Speech

INTRODUCTION

Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to give an update on the initiatives that have been undertaken by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and their partner Agencies to mitigate the current and impending drought conditions affecting the country.

Mr. Speaker, the drought mitigation response is contextualized by the National Water Sector Policy and Implementation Plan (2019) which was recently approved as a White Paper by this Honourable House.

The Policy is guided by six (6) main principles including Integrated Water Resources Management, and Universal Access and sets service targets and standards which incorporate universal access to basic services, access to our water resources for economic growth, and improvements to the quality and reliability of services.

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, through the Water Policy and Monitoring Branch, has been working assiduously with the Water Resources Authority; the Rural Water Supply Limited and the National Water Commission, to ensure the sustainable management of our water resources and the provision of adequate supplies.

Mr. Speaker, in order for us to understand the situation we must first preface the discourse with the meteorological perspective as provided by the Meteorological Services of Jamaica.

The Meteorological Services of Jamaica manages a network of weather observation stations that includes 103 manual rain-gauges, 4 rainfall intensity gauges and 100 automatic weather stations, of which approximately 10 currently report in real-time. These are spread across the country and provide data representative of coastal and inland areas, plains and mountainous terrain. There are, however, some limitations to their coverage and ability to provide timely updates to the drought scenario.

Jamaica traditionally experiences a bimodal pattern of rainfall characterized by a primary peak, or rainfall season, in mid-October, and a secondary, slightly lower peak in May. These two periods are often depended on to produce sufficient rainfall to sustain us over the ensuing drier period, so the rainfall obtained in the secondary rainfall season in May each year is expected to be adequate for the summer months of June – September.

April 2020 was relatively dry, when compared to the 30-year normal and this is most noticeable for north-eastern parishes. For Kingston and St. Andrew, this makes it 3 months of recording monthly rainfall percentages of 50% or less.

Based on rainfall received during May 2020, the amounts recorded were less in every Parish compared to May 2019. In some cases, the rainfall produced was even less than a quarter of the previous year’s figure. In May 2020, rainfall measured very low when compared to the climatological average, or 30-year normal, for all Parishes. Portland and St. Catherine had the lowest percentages followed by Kingston, St. Andrew and Clarendon, then St. Mary and St. Thomas. This followed the trend of April with below-normal rainfall for the entire country.

The comparison of May 2020 with the 30-year normal, again we are seeing a dire situation. Clarendon and St. Catherine have recorded consecutive months of decreasing rainfall percentages. The Parishes of Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary and St. Ann received less than 50% of their 30-year means; with Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas and Portland doing so with 25% or less of their normal rainfall for that month.

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