Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Sea-level rise a daunting reality in St Thomas

Published:Wednesday | August 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Walter Reynolds (right), former fisherman of Rocky Point, St Thomas, talks about some experiences he has had during the hurricane season. Looking on is Henry Gray.
This is what is left of a house that was being built in Rocky Point as the tide sweeps towards the shore.
Terrence Cover, project coordinator at the St Thomas Environmental Protection Association Benevolent Society, talks about plans to rescue the communities.
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Though he is yet to fully understand the intricacies of the science associated with the concept of climate change, 83-year-old Walter Reynolds has seen enough evidence of sea-level rise to appreciate its potentially devastating and far-moving consequences at Rocky Point Beach in Morant Point, St Thomas.

"I know of two graves in that water right now. All of this area was a thriving business section - lots of trees and small buildings - but that is no more. Pure water," he told The Gleaner during a recent visit.

"I notice some changes since (Hurricane) Gilbert, but tings get worse since Hurricane Ivan. Him (hurricane) come wid him axe and machete and move wid everyting, no land space," he said with a chuckle.

This observation by the former fisherman is consistent with research done by a team at the University of the West Indies, Mona, which identified the seaside towns of Annotto Bay, St Mary, and Morant Point, St Thomas - both in eastern Jamaica - as two of the island's communities most at risk from sea-level rise devastation.

The researchers have linked land slippage and other environmental issues to the poor socio-economic conditions that are a common feature of the communities.

These are some of the problems in addition to land slippage that the Trinityville Area Integrated Land Management and Disaster Risk Reduction Project intends to address in order to cushion some of the devastating blows of climate change.

Franklyn Williams, project manager, Trinityville Area Development Committee Benevolent Society, told The Gleaner that the $70-million project funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will benefit more than 10 communities, including Somerset, Mount Lebanus, Font Hill, among others.

 

creeping in

 

"Driving along that area that leads you out of Morant Bay to Morant Point, you see areas where the sea is taking over the road. The sea is creeping in and the land is creeping out," Williams told The Gleaner.

"Landslides are very prevalent here as well, and it actually changes the contour of the land, and part of the project is to build contour barriers that will arrest the flow of water, in addition to planting 3,000 fruit and timber trees. River-training exercise will also be very critical, so that when the rain does come, it will channel the water to the river and not all over the place," he further explained.

Terrance Cover, project coordinator at the St Thomas Environmental Protection Association Benevolent Society, echoed similar concerns that have people worried.

"Some residents here are like sitting ducks, because if there is any serious indication of rainfall, they start to fret because we are very vulnerable," Cover said.

"We are prone, and because of our geographical location, flooding, land slippage and, especially, deforestation are all the issues facing us. We have lost a lot of tree cover, which is impacting people's livelihood, water availability, and biodiversity."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com