More From the Front Lines: Research to Prevent Flooding in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed


As mentioned in the previous blog post, work goes on, steadily, to understand more about, and find solutions to the many challenges climate change confronts us with. The parish of Clarendon is unusually vulnerable to floods. Disaster risk reduction is high on the list. In recent heavy rains, we saw photos of main roads turned into raging torrents and waterfalls. The Upper Rio Minho Watershed has been severely degraded over the years; two years ago there was a huge flooding event that affected thousands of people and their livelihoods. Here is one of the ongoing research projects that hopes to find answers and implement viable solutions, funded by  the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism (AP&FM) for the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience in Jamaica (PPCR).

ppcr-results

Sediment budgeting research to help climate adaptation in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed, Clarendon

September 26, 2019. Researchers from the University of the West Indies (UWI) are doing studies of the Rio Minho River in Upper Clarendon to see how its sediment loads can be monitored to reduce flooding risk and other climate impacts.

The project which is being led by Dr Arpita Mandal and a team of Geologists, Geomorphologist and GIS Experts from the Department of Geography and Geology involves mapping and monitoring sediment load over time and estimating the impact of flooding and erosion.   

 We selected about 15 sites or locations along the river and did river transects at each of these. Four additional sites were selected for planting erosion pegs. We are monitoring these sites every month, explained Dr. Mandal, while adding that a model for flooding was also being done.

dr mandal at the river bank
Dr. Arpita Mandal explains how monitoring the sediment budgeting of the Rio Minho will help residents in the area plan for and adapt to climate change. (Photo: Adaptation Programme and Fnancing Mechanism)

In order to effectively monitor the river and its response to weather changes the researchers have also installed two automated weather stations, one at Edwin Allen High school in Frankfield and the other at Clarendon College in Chapelton. These emit data to the Meteorological Office, providing daily data for better forecasting and modelling.

Project Manager, Irvin Adonis explained that the research generated from the project will help in  policy and decision-making.

It will aid in the decision making for lives and livelihoods for people along the Rio Minho. It will aid in the decisions made for food security for the nation; and predict what possible changes will take place re land reformation due to erosion and other changes occurring, he said and added that the research could also inform agricultural decisions and planning.

If you have an idea of the volume of run-off/discharge generated from a rainfall event  passing through the canal, an estimate can be made of how much will stay in the channel and how much will over. So you can know the potential of an area to be flooded, explained fellow team members Drs. Donovan Blissett and David Miller.

dr mandal and prof mitchell
Dr. Arpita Mandal and Professor Simon Mitchell measure erosion levels on the banks of the Rio Minho in Clarendon. (Photo: Adaptation Programme and Fnancing Mechanism)

 It speaks to the dynamic of prevention. Should you make more catchment areas, or divert the river? It gives you more information for planning. You will also know what to tell farmers re where to plant, said another team member, Mr. Rupert Green while adding that this information can be estimated from the river profile survey carried out for the locations and the flood model

Farming is a major livelihood in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed area which has roughly 40 communities and a population of 69,000 persons.  Small farmers grow vegetables, yams, potatoes and other tubers, pulses, sorrel, condiments, banana, cereals, plantains and fruits.

The watershed has been designated by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) as one of the most degraded in the Jamaica and in need of critical intervention. This was a key reason why it was identified for intervention under the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism (AP&FM) of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) project which commissioned UWI to do the research on the Rio Minhos sediment budget.

The AP&FM will also be working with 33 of the communities in the watershed to install 1800 micro check dams, 250 communal rainwater harvesting systems, 5 aquaponics systems as well doing reforestation agro-forestry initiatives.

The research being done by the UWI Department of Geography and Geology will provide data to ensure that interventions can reduce climate impacts such as flooding and drought, said Project Manager for the AP&FM, Dr Winsome Townsend. This will ensure that we minimise damage like what happened in the 2017 flooding.

At that time the Rio Minho burst its banks and damaged bridges, farms and personal property for thousands of residents. The research team was earlier this year recognised by UWI during its 2019 Research Day Activities for the work in the Watershed.

dr mandal at the weather station
Dr. Arpita Mandal explains how the weather station at Clarendon College works. (Photo: Adaptation Programme and Fnancing Mechanism)

 


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