Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Political will needed to pull people from brink of disaster – Archer

Published:Tuesday | November 21, 2023 | 12:09 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Dr Carol Archer, urban planner and professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment at The University of Technology, Jamaica.
Dr Carol Archer, urban planner and professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment at The University of Technology, Jamaica.

Urban planning and public policy expert Dr Carol Archer believes strong political will is needed to frontally address the issue of people settling in areas where they are at high risk in the event of a natural disaster.

Archer was responding to comments by Prime Minister Andrew that his administration would be moving to enforce laws to relocate and prevent people from settling in these dangerous areas.

However, Archer, a University of Technology, Jamaica professor, noted that this issue spans political administrations and that the development order has defined “no-build areas”; however, she said a revision is needed of accompanying legislation.

She pointed specifically to the Building Act, which she lamented lacks the required laws.

“The Government does not want to execute the Building Act because they’ll say there is no regulation,” she said. “If the area is defined and you cannot use the act because you don’t have the regulations to accompany the act, what good does that do?” she asked, noting that Jamaica is a signatory to the United Nations Habitat Relocation Protocol that guides the settling of citizens in such instances.

Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesperson on Land, Environment and Climate Change Sophia Frazer-Binns wants a review of the country’s “archaic” laws, which she said hinder land ownership.

“The people are there in the first place because we have not dealt sufficiently with the whole government land policy, national spatial plan, and all the other land-management issues like land titling. People hitchhike where they have access to,” she said in a Gleaner interview.

“The fact is that, with the exception of very specific instances, we have not, as a country, sought to make land ownership easy for people, and oftentimes persons have resorted to living on hillsides and living on gully banks because they need shelter,” added Frazer-Binns.

She noted, too, that the cost associated with land ownership is a deterrent.

She suggested that the Government explore how it can utilise Crown lands in improving access to land for people in danger zones, as the impact of climate change becomes more evident.

“If you look across what you are seeing, particularly in coast-lying communities, there is what we now call climate migration ... . A number of countries are looking at how they [respond to] ... more and more people becoming climate refugees,” she said.

“Jamaica being an island is very likely to be impacted by it and perhaps not to the extent that you see in other countries, but in our own way, it can affect us, and so it is a conversation that we must have now. We cannot wait until another natural disaster to react,” said the senator.

Frazer-Binns stressed that continual public education and engagement of people who may need to be relocated from dangerous areas is important for them to understand the danger they face.

“I don’t believe we have done enough to educate our persons. What tends to happen is every time we have a natural disaster, there’s a national outcry and we bemoan the fact persons are living in these precarious areas, but, like most things, after a few days, it dies down,” she said.