Tue | Nov 12, 2019

McKenzie: Climate change hitting us hard

Published:Saturday | November 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMOkoye Henry/Gleaner Writer


The government of Jamaica has said it is prepared to take a proactive approach to sudden accidents and natural catastrophes by establishing a new funding programme to respond to damage caused by natural disasters.

Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie made the announcement on Thursday while addressing the World Town Planning Day 2018 Conference at Jewel Grande in Montego Bay, St James.

While he did not give the specifics, McKenzie said the programme was approved by Cabinet on Monday and will be a top priority of the Government, which has been spending millions of dollars each year in response to natural disasters caused by climate change.

"The PIOJ (the Planning Institute of Jamaica) report in 2012 indicated that between the year 2001 and 2012, the country experienced 11 storms, including five major hurricanes, several floodings and the cost effect to the economy of the country amounting to $129 billion," said McKenzie.

"In fact, the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was equivalent to eight per cent GDP (gross domestic product) and in 2012, Hurricane Sandy accounted for 0.8 per cent GDP. This is the kind of devastating effect that a small country like us can experience," added McKenzie.


Widespread drought


The minister further stated that widespread drought conditions caused by climate change across parishes such as St Elizabeth, St James, Portland and Manchester have also been costing the country significant sums of money.

"This has forced the administration to respond and be spending in excess of J$450 million to alleviate drought conditions across the country. We have built water shops in Clarendon, Manchester and several other areas as we move to try to alleviate and give residents access to potable drinking water," continued McKenzie.

"Intense rainfall has resulted in significant flooding in Montego Bay, May Pen, Clarendon, Hanover, and Kingston. It was just over a year ago that the city of Montego Bay was washed away. Two weeks ago, when we had the rains in Kingston, less than an hour of rainfall, the city was gridlocked, locked down," stated McKenzie.

However, the minister sought to make it clear that the current administration is not to be blamed for flooding and droughts affecting the country as according to him, the country has neglected its infrastructures over the years.

"You will remember in Kingston when the Bustamante-led government decided to build the Sandy Gully. Many people were critical of the government, calling it 'gully government,' saying that the only thing that the government wanted to do is to build gully," said McKenzie. "Well, let us thank God for the Sandy Gully because if it wasn't built then Kingston would not exist today."

"Climate change is being seen and felt right across the region. There are more intense hurricane conditions and increasing rainfall, where we see now that there is hardly anymore seasonal period for rain," added McKenzie.