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Residents of communities surrounding the Bog Walk Gorge in St. Catherine will benefit from an upgraded Rio Cobre Early Warning System (RCEWS), which will assist in the management of potential water-related disasters.

Grant funding for the upgrade of the system, which was established by the Water Resources Authority (WRA), was provided by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) at a cost of J$34 million (US$256,302.68).

The upgraded system, which is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, will now feature five stream flow stations, six intensity rain gauges and has technology best suited for Jamaica’s terrain and weather conditions.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., said the system will give timely and accurate measurements and warnings to reduce the loss of life and damage caused by flooding, which is estimated at approximately $112 billion.

Senator Charles Jr., was speaking at the launch of the RCEWS, in Bog Walk on April 29.

The new system, unlike its predecessor, which relied on satellite, will utilise Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) technology, allowing for real-time data transmission.

“It is not affected by either the terrain or weather conditions that used to obliterate the satellite, which is evidenced by its usage over the last 12 months. We are using the most robust of the technologies to protect our people here in Jamaica. We are (now) better positioned to confront an uncertain future,” Senator Charles Jr. said.

He emphasised that the upgrade and expansion of the system is critical to the country’s achievement of prosperity and alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), enshrined in the National Development Plan, Vision 2030.

“It will help, in particular, with strategic goal number four, which speaks to Jamaica having a healthy natural environment and it (will) also help in improving our resilience and our emergency response capabilities,” he said.

Senator Charles Jr. noted that it is the intention of the Government to install other automated early warning systems in other places throughout the country, to create a safe environment for all.

Meanwhile, Acting Deputy Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Howard Glaze, said the continued development of early warning systems is a priority for ODPEM.

He noted that there are other places in the parish of St. Catherine where the system could also be implemented in order to reduce damage and the loss of life.

Mr. Glaze expressed gratitude to those who have played an integral role in supporting the system, such as members of the surrounding communities.

For her part, Member of Parliament for St. Catherine North Central, Natalie Neita, said the system is important for persons using the Bog Walk Gorge, and is looking forward to its usage being taught to the residents.

During the launch, a total of 15 community members received plaques for their contribution to the early warning system.