LETTER OF THE DAY: Be proactive to reduce devastation
The Editor, Sir:
Earlier this week, the University of the West Indies Guild of Students in association with the United Student Movement of Northern Caribbean University and the University of Technology's Student Union officially launched the Nicole Relief. This programme is geared towards assisting those individuals who have been affected by Tropical Storm Nicole over the last few days.
The united front of students is asking corporate Jamaica and citizens who can afford to donate bed linens, non-perishable items, such as tin food, and hardware supply to kindly do so. This is undoubtedly a grand initiative and one must commend the body of student leaders for understanding that this is part of our civic responsibility.
Pushing to get relief aid
While I am thrilled that we are pushing forward to get relief aid for those who are greatly affected, I want to point out that as a nation we are not proactive enough. It is a known fact that our geographic location predisposes us to hurricanes and tropical storms. Every year, we face similar challenges with flooding and torrential rains; houses are devastated, road networks disrupted and in several cases lives are lost. It is good that we respond to the catastrophes as they occur; however, I strongly believe that we can put in place some mechanisms to reduce the level of devastation.
Frankly, some houses ought never to have been constructed in certain areas. It is time that the Government declares some communities uninhabitable and take steps to ensure that absolutely no construction occurs in those areas. Additionally, the Government should be vigilant in its attempt to ensure that protocols are observed before construction are enforced. In the same breath, the parish councils must be held accountable for some of these buildings that have been constructed in precarious positions.
Who should relocate them?
We hear the question of relocation of squatters from flood-prone areas to housing developments surfacing steadily. But who should relocate them, and at what cost? Would the initiative to relocate cost less than what the authorities stand to lose in assisting persons who lost their homes due to building in squalid areas? Food for thought: if the Government improves, enforces and maintains guidelines for housing construction, would the estimated devastation have been mitigated?
As the nation recovers from this Tropical Storm Nicole, with the possibility of experiencing several others of this nature or greater, I hope that a valuable lesson has been learnt. We cannot stop an act of nature but we can implement or improve mechanisms to reduce the level of devastation.
I am, etc.,