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Poor enviro management blamed for flood damage

Published:Saturday | November 7, 2020 | 12:15 AMNadine Wilson/Staff Reporter

In addition to poor urban planning, climate change and population increase, urban planners are blaming the extensive damage caused by floodwaters in recent weeks on a lack of political will.

Urban planner Dr Garfield Hunter lamented that there is poor physical planning and very little consideration has been given to the country’s ageing infrastructure.

“We don’t really have a national infrastructure policy,” he said.

“There are about 104 planning and environmental legislation in Jamaica. Most of them are outdated from the 1950s or thereabout, and they have not been keeping up with the realities of today in terms of current events and future events,” said Hunter, whose expertise is in the area of environmental management, development and tourism planning and disaster risk reduction.

Hunter was a panellist during yesterday’s Road to Resilience discussion, which sought to look at reducing urban flood risk in a changing climate.

Urban planner and disaster researcher Judanne Lennox Morrison also blamed the country’s poor legislative framework for the extensive damage often created by natural disasters like flooding.

“I think the phrasing of poor planning practices directs responsibility to the professionals at the planning level and there is an absence of actual planning legislation at the helm. Professionals cannot carry out certain actions without legislation or legislative support that would back them in doing those things,” she pointed out.

The country sustained billions of dollars in agricultural losses and damage to infrastructure and property during recent rains.

Managing director of Environmental Solutions Limited, Eleanor Jones, noted that with roughly half the island’s population living in urban areas, many areas have now become more flood-prone with no area for storm water to run off due to poor planning.

“One of the things that we need to begin to think about is the whole question of disaster risk management. We have tended to look at disasters as something that we respond to,” Jones said.

“We need to take charge of our vulnerability. It is real and it is going to get worse, and it serves very little purpose to just simply be talking about these issues ad nauseam,” said the environmentalist.