Edmond Campbell, Senior Reporter
THE COUNTRY will soon have a comprehensive disaster-management policy which, among others things, will set out a medium- to long-term strategy to minimise the perennial effects of drought on the island.
Director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, told The Gleaner, in a recent interview, that a six-month consultancy was being offered to draft the policy.
He said that by August the proposals should be ready for discussion.
Meanwhile, the ODPEM, the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) and the Water Resources Authority have set up a drought monitoring network.
A preventative approach
Chief executive officer (CEO) of the NIC Douglas Walker said the network would carry out its task using a "preventative approach so that we'll be able to assess warnings based on climate change".
He said the Meteorological Service would play a crucial role by providing meteorological analysis for the group.
The process would include shared Internet facilities and resources and shared network.
"The critical and relevant data from each of our websites will pool into a central website where the public will be able to access and get information," said Walker.
Commenting on efforts to alleviate the effects of drought on farmers in St Elizabeth, the NIC CEO said the agency had eight deep well pumps that were supplying irrigation water to farmers.
Additionally, he said the NIC has taken steps to reduce the cost of irrigation water to farmers.
"There is a stipulated rate regime in place that the NIC had taken over from the Rapid Response Unit. We have reduced the rate from $8,800 to $6,500 per 4,000 US-gallon truckload of water," he explained.
Walker said the farmers have responded well with the commercial department of the NIC reporting an increase in demand for water from farmers.