I have spent some time in the beautiful central parish of Clarendon in the past year. Studies (and recent events) have shown that the area is particularly vulnerable to flooding, prolonged drought, and other impacts of climate change.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness pointed out in Parliament in October that Clarendon was responsible for a large chunk of this year’s road repair bill due to major flooding in September (J$188 million for 42 roads). Around that time, a six-year-old boy drowned in flood waters in Mount Claire and a man drowned in Freetown. May Pen was severely impacted by flooding in May, including the Hospital. It seems to go on year after year (2017 was particularly disastrous).
It is good to see that plans have been finalized (having been discussed at the community level) to reduce risk and to assist citizens to adapt to climate change. These local consultations are very important. No two communities are exactly alike, so a “one size fits all” approach is unlikely to work. Please see details below, from the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism (AP&FM) for the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) – supported by the Inter-American Development Bank. This mechanism has been responsible for many practical projects across the island for climate change adaptation, as well as citizen participation and awareness projects such as the Voices for Climate Change spearheaded by Panos Caribbean. It has also provided funding for a University of the West Indies (UWI) team headed by Dr. Arpita Mandal, which is currently monitoring a number of sites in the Rio Minho Watershed for soil erosion and other impacts, and two weather stations installed in Frankfield and Chapelton.
There is much work to be done! Climate change is waiting for no one.
Risk Profiles and Climate Change Adaptation Plans Produced for 15 Clarendon Communities
December 28, 2019. Fifteen communities in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed (URMW) area of Clarendon are better able to plan for climate impacts and hazards via the development of risk profiles, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Plans for each of them.
These plans were completed for the communities of Morgan’s Forest, Rock River, Kellits, Summerfield, Thompson Town, James Hill, Crooked River, Chapelton, Coxswain, Trout Hall, Pennants, Moores, Ritches, Brandon Hill and Cumberland.
“We are very happy that the plans are now completed and that the communities already have teams in place that are committed to implementing them,” said Dr. Winsome Townsend, Project Manager of the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism (AP&FM) for the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). The plans were completed as a part of the deliverables of the five-year AP&FM project.
The 15-climate change and disaster risk reduction plans were a part of a bigger risk profile and climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction plan which were being done for the URMW. The URMW was chosen as a focal area for the AP&FM because of its level of degradation, its exposure to climate change and its associated impacts, as well as susceptibility to seismic activity.
Additionally, the basin is one of the major ground water producing basins in Jamaica with annual abstraction reaching about 400 million cubic metres (MCM) in one year (Climate Studies Group, 2014).
The risk profiles and climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction plans were produced by a research team from Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL). The team used modelling scenarios from 2030, 2050 and 2080 climate research to inform the plans.
According to ESL’s Project Manager for this consultancy, Dr. Theresa Rodriguez-Moodie, extensive consultations were held in the communities and with key stakeholder organizations such as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Clarendon Inter-Agency Network, Water Resources Authority (WRA) and Mines and Geology.
Workshops were also held to validate the findings of the studies and to discuss the recommended adaptation measures for the watershed and the communities in October 2019.
Dr. Rodriguez-Moodie noted that one of the main points consistently raised in these sessions was the issue of awareness and sensitization.
“We can only implement actions towards a climate and disaster resilient watershed if we know what the issues are. Persons consulted felt that awareness and sensitization sessions towards climate change and its impacts should be done at different levels, focusing on the communities,” she said.
“Persons need to know what it means for their livelihood and how they can start planning. Many persons indicated that they can only afford to cope with the issues as they arise, whereas adaptation requires long term planning. In order to do so they feel if they are more educated and aware of the issues they will be better able to adapt,” she added.
Dr. Rodriguez-Moodie said that some of the adaptation measures being explored include revising zoning plans to reduce permitted development in flood zones, liquefaction zones and landslide zones.
Plans for long-term management will also include improving institutional and technical capacity; improving drainage infrastructure; addressing poor farming techniques; and encouraging the replanting of forest trees in the watershed.
Outside of the plans developed, the AP&FM has already started adaptation work in the URMW area. Some of the activities currently under implementation are:
– The installation of 1800 check dams to address flooding
– Installation of 250 communal rainwater harvesting systems and rehabilitation of three rain ponds
– Installation of 5 aquaponics systems in 5 communities
– Reforestation of 15 hectares of land and
– 50 hectares of Agro-Forestry.
“By helping with the restoration of the Upper Rio Minho Watershed the AP&FM is ensuring the water security of the island especially in the face of the longer droughts that we are seeing with climate change,” said Dr. Townsend.