Editorial

Whew! Hurricane season ends, but the night is dark and full of terrors

Friday, December 01, 2017

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Thankfully, we have reached the end of the 2017 hurricane season without suffering any direct impact from storms, because had we been hit, there's no telling the scale of the damage that the country would have experienced.

We are drawn to that conclusion by last week's extreme weather event in Montego Bay, St James, and just the general impact that consistent rain has had on the country for the last six months, at least.

Yesterday, our sister newspaper, the Jamaica Observer West, reported Montego Bay Mayor Councillor Homer Davis as projecting unofficially that the cost to that city from last week's flash flood rains could climb as high as $1 billion.

According to Mayor Davis, the information he has received so far is that the flooding caused extensive damage to infrastructure and homes.

Roads and drains, he said, were washed away in Flanker, Rose Heights and Somerton. In Unity Hall, roads that were recently paved were dug up, while in Glendevon, asphalted roads were ripped apart and drains also destroyed.

When we consider the fact that all this damage was the result of just four hours of heavy rain, we shudder to think what would obtain had the island been hit by one of the extremely powerful hurricanes that barrelled through the Caribbean this season.

We recall that, in April this year, heavy rains over a number of days resulted in severe flooding, damage to roads, and huge landslides that left many Jamaicans inconvenienced.

At the time, Prime Minister Andrew Holness argued that the flooding could largely be attributed to the country's lack of capacity to deal with the extraordinary weather events spawned by climate change.

It is a point we have repeatedly made in this space as we highlighted the danger of poor infrastructure in a country that is not only prone to hurricanes annually, but is being impacted by the onset of global warming.

Jamaica, we believe, has felt the negative effects of a cavalier approach to forward planning that takes into consideration the capacity of the infrastructure to withstand nature's hazards and which ensures that communities are built to minimise the risks associated with natural disasters.

Based on what the prime minister has said, he obviously shares that view, as he specifically stated that there are capacity as well as developmental issues in the management of the country's infrastructure. He also said that Jamaica's development has not kept pace with its ability to deal with run-off, solid waste management, and other environmental issues and, crucially, that “past administrations have not managed the development process effectively to ensure that the increased capacity of the drainage systems matches the level of physical development”.

He also promised that the Government would start taking a closer look at the management and approval process for developments in the country.

We hope that this was not just a grand announcement by the prime minister, given the events in Montego Bay last week, and all that the country has experienced since the start of the rainy season this year.

The point can't be made often enough that the longer we neglect implementing the necessary measures to reduce risk is the more it will cost.

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