Jamaica accelerates work on new water policy
With climate threats to the water sector a clear and present danger - including reduced rainfall levels that have dried up freshwater sources in recent months - Jamaica is accelerating work on its new draft water policy and implementation plan.
"We have done extensive consultation on this; we are working on finalising a draft. There are some delays to ensure we strengthen some of the provisions that are in there, but the work continues," revealed Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change.
"We are working very hard to see how quickly we can get it to the minister (Robert Pickersgill). If it is left to the minister, he would get it tomorrow, but we have to do our due diligence," he added.
The new policy - guided by principles of sustainability, access, inclusion, and economy - seeks to address deficiencies in the past.
Among other things, the new policy includes considerations for climate change and will address getting water from the north of the island, where it is more readily and abundantly available, to the south where the demand is greater.
"Over the years, we have depended on this cyclical pattern where you have the dry season and then the rains come and replenish the resources. And so we haven't really given sufficient attention to the need to move those waters from northern areas to the south," noted Khan.
series of threats
Climate change, according to the 2009 Environmental Solutions Limited study titled 'Development of a National Water Sector Adaptation Strategy to Address Climate Change in Jamaica', presents a series of threats to the sector. They include:
• increased length of the dry season that will increase the vulnerability of communities supplied by single spring or river sources.
• increased frequency of intense rains that are likely to result in high sediment loads.
• the likely increase in the frequency of high-intensity rainfall events that will increase the frequency of the occurrence of landslides and floods.
• the likely increase in climatic variability that will increase the vulnerability of the agricultural sector.
Done for the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre under the Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change Project, it also identifies as threats:
• sea level rise up to 0.59 metres by the 2090s.
• increased frequency of more intense rainfall events that will "accelerate sediment erosion, movement and transport within basin river systems".
Meanwhile, once the new policy is finalised, Khan said resource mobilisation for implementation will begin.
"The resource mobilisation will follow. The policy does not cover resource mobilisation... . When we do have a policy, we can go to those who finance development," he told The Gleaner.
Work on the new policy aside, Government has taken some steps to shore up the island's freshwater resources, amid the prevailing drought that has hampered business and household operations in the past months.
In addition to re-commissioning a number of wells and signing a multimillion-dollar deal to arrest non-revenue water, they have, too, appealed to Jamaicans.
"We have been encouraging citizens to do more conservation, hence more efficient means of managing the water that they do have, like changing out infrastructure at home," said Khan.
"We have also been encouraging the public to increase individual storage capacity at home and not rely only on water from the National Water Commission, but also rainwater, when it does fall," he added.