Jamaica strengthening disaster resilience under US$30-m project

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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JAMAICA'S resilience to disaster and climate risk is being strengthened through various activities and initiatives being undertaken as part of the Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP).

The project, which is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) from 2016 to 2022, is funded by the Government of Jamaica through a loan agreement with the World Bank valued at US$30 million.

General manager for technical services at JSIF, Loy Malcolm, tells JIS News that Jamaica, by virtue of its location, is vulnerable to hurricanes, earthquakes, sea level rise, and all the other issues that come about with climate change.

As such, the various deliverables to be implemented under the project are intended to reduce disaster and climate vulnerability by making infrastructure developments more resilient.

Malcolm says it will improve the capacity of government institutions to generate and use hazard and risk information to inform national planning and will also focus on increasing awareness about disaster risk- reduction, building resilience, and emergency management.

The project deliverables to be undertaken over the six-year period include the development of a National Risk Information Platform (NRIP), which will allow all risk data to be located and updated in a centralised platform available to government agencies and the public.

“The DVRP is an example of collaboration and partnership across agencies and ministries, so it is critical that we mainstream across agencies the ability to use data to inform the development decisions that we make as a country,” the general manager points out.

Already under the project, JSIF has provided well-needed equipment to the Earthquake Unit at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, which will strengthen its ability to monitor and respond to seismic activity.

This initiative, valued at $83 million, includes 10 digital seismometer systems that provide data on an earthquake's magnitude, depth and epicentre; 30 accelerographs to be placed at seismic stations, hospitals and schools to measure the horizontal force acting on a building; and 72 Ethernet radios with antennae, which will transmit data in real time from seismic stations to the Central Recording Station at The UWI.

The Earthquake Unit will also receive software, computer server and network-attached storage, in addition to laboratory equipment such as portable oscilloscope, spectrum analyser and multiplexer.

Another critical component of the partnership involves the matter of human capacity building in the area of seismology, where a junior research fellow at UWI, Mona, will earn a scholarship to pursue a doctorate in seismology. Upon completion, the graduate student will be employed as a seismologist within the UWI Earthquake Unit.

JSIF will also provide funding support for training the staff at the Earthquake Unit.

Additionally, the project will see the construction of a fully equipped seismic station in Westmoreland and upgrading of remote stations across Jamaica.

“Another component of the project supports increased awareness about the building code, as we need to ensure that our professionals, such as our engineers, architects and building inspectors, are aware and trained on the new building code,” Malcolm informs.

To this end, the project will fund training initiatives in support of the implementation and enforcement of Jamaica's new building code.

The issue of the new code, she points out, “is one of safety and increasing the level of safety of the population. So, the idea is that the more aware we are as a people of how to build, where to build, why not to build, what to do, what not to do, will result in a safer society”.

On the matter of infrastructural development, Malcolm informs that several buildings and facilities will be rehabilitated or reconstructed to strengthen their resilience to disasters and climate risks.

“So, we will be funding the construction of three new fire stations in Montego Bay, Yallahs and Port Maria, and those will get under way before the year is out. We will also be giving six fire trucks — four for firefighting and two water - tenders,” Malcolm outlines.

The project will also fund the upgrading of drainage systems in the Old Harbour environs of St Catherine and facilitate coastline restoration work along Port Royal Street, Kingston.

There is also a contingent emergency response component which provides a mechanism, during the project/loan period, for the Government to quickly inject funds in the country to provide relief, should a disaster strike.

“JSIF continues to contribute to national development not just through the implementation of social intervention programmes, but by reducing the country's climate vulnerability by making infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters. And so, as the country faces challenges and vulnerabilities, JSIF has been called upon to support projects and implement and address those issues,” Malcolm affirms.

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