THE Editor, Sir:
One is understanding of the economic hardships that supposedly underpin decisions of many Jamaicans to build homes in hazardous areas. It goes without saying that owning a home and, more important, having a provision for shelter for one's family is of prime importance. These imperatives, however convincing, cannot usurp the importance of life preservation.
With the passage of Hurricane Sandy, we are again left to examine the damage done to infrastructure and, more regrettably, the loss of not merely livelihood, but also life. The routine of having to pick up the pieces after another disaster is not divorced from the routine of having to watch structures being built on cliff edges, banks of surging rivers or too close to gullies.
penny wise and pound foolish
The building of houses and other structures in flood-prone areas is standard practice in Jamaica, never mind the myriad warnings, building regulations and threat to life and property. With acts of building being married to an unwillingness to relocate from these areas, especially in the hurricane season, it goes without saying that these citizens are being penny wise and pound foolish.
It is with this in mind that the call is made for the consideration of appropriate legislation which would allow for the mandatory evacuation of citizens who reside in areas which are extremely vulnerable to flooding and which may lead to loss of life. The enacting of such legislation should allow for mass evacuation if it is deemed favourable to the preservation of life. The evacuation orders must have teeth and be more than a mere suggestion to the residents.
With meteorological data suggesting that storms will only get more ferocious and unpredictable, it is high time government moves in this direction. After all, it is one of the remits of any government to protect citizens, as much as is possible, from disasters, whether natural or man-made, and from threats, whether foreign or domestic, even if it means protecting citizens from themselves.