Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Coastal disaster could paralyse Jamaica, warns McKenzie

Published:Friday | November 22, 2019 | 12:07 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
The Kingston waterfront is home to a number of significant state and private-sector institutions.
The Kingston waterfront is home to a number of significant state and private-sector institutions.


Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has painted a frightening picture of how Jamaica could be crippled by disasters affecting the coastline because of a significant number of important state institutions and parish capitals sited close to the shores.

Ten of the island’s 14 parish capitals are coastal towns, with the exceptions being Clarendon’s May Pen, St Catherine’s Spanish Town, Mandeville in Manchester, and Half-Way Tree in St Andrew.

In giving his assessment, McKenzie said that Jamaica could be at risk of suffering Hurricane Dorian-like devastation as witnessed in The Bahamas in August, crippling major institutions and infrastructure as well as the national economy.

McKenzie made the observation while addressing Wednesday’s second annual staging of the Local Government and Community Development Youth Mayors’ Forum at the St James Municipal Corporation Building in Montego Bay, St James.

“We have to become appreciative of our circumstances in disasters. We are in the top tier of disaster-risk countries in this region, and Jamaica is the most strategic point in the Caribbean, and for those of you who don’t understand how serious this issue is, 85 per cent of our country’s resources and power are vested in coastal areas,” said McKenzie.

“The Bank of Jamaica sits on the edge of the Kingston waterfront, plus the House of Parliament, the Supreme Court, our oil refinery, our two major hospitals, our airports, and every major institution that wields power is coastal. If we get the kind of disaster that The Bahamas got a couple of weeks ago, you know what that means to the survival of this country,” he added.

Hurricane Dorian devastated The Bahamas on September 1, leaving thousands in need of food, water, and shelter, plus millions of dollars in damage. On Tuesday, the Bahamian government updated the death toll from the Category Five storm to 69. Hundreds are still believed to be missing.

McKenzie added that rampant indiscipline among Jamaicans, who, among other things, continue to construct buildings without following government guidelines, also continues to put the nation in danger.

“It’s not only poor people alone that have abused the right to build, but the rich and famous and those that can do better have also done so. It’s not just the man who lives in Flankers, St James, or some other community, who builds illegally that is contributing to our danger. It is Jamaica’s problem,” the minister emphasised.

“We have a propensity to believe that you should not adhere to the rules. While there’s not enough in terms of what needs to happen, we’re still getting a lot of indiscipline that’s coming from our residents,” added McKenzie.