The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) says that St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is the second most disaster-prone country in the world by population.
The GFDRR also states that SVG is the fifth most disaster-prone country in the world by land size and because of this, says Kedahli Crichton, Physical Planning Officer II, of the Physical Planning Unit, says that projects like the European Union (EU) funded ‘ILAND RESILIENCE’ initiative are very important to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like SVG.
‘ILAND RESILIENCE’ is the name of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) brand associated with the OECS managed Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) project. The GCCA’s shared portfolio of Climate Change Adaptation and Sustainable Land Management is being implemented in SVG, through the Ministry of Housing etc. and the Ministry of Economic Planning.
This project focuses on sustainable development in SIDS through sustainable land management towards climate change adaption and seeks to do among other things, help locals mitigate against the threats that come with climate change and create awareness.
“We have a long history of being impacted by climatic anomalies and we also have a lot of people living under threat given our particular development scenario where we are all on the coast”, stressed Crichton.
What the GFDRR statistics point to is that 41.2% of Vincentians are at risk from two or more climatic hazards and according to Crichton, if you turn that the other way, it means that 58.8% of Vincentians are at risk of facing two or fewer hazards.
“We are definitely disaster prone”, stressed Crichton who noted that the GCCA project is just one vehicle through which policy decisions are being made to address climate change mitigation and how SVG and other OECS countries can see “our way out of suffering the full effects of climatic hazards”.
Crichton said that the floods that have taken place locally have captured a lot of media attention but climatic variability has also caused droughts as well which have impacted the agricultural sector among other facets of Vincentian life.
“It is something that we at the Physical Planning Unit and the Ministry of Agriculture are paying close attention to and the GCCA project seeks to build awareness and institutional capacity and create actual physical mitigation measures”, said Crichton who added that under Physical Adaptation measures of the GCCA project, The Ministry of Agriculture, through the Forestry Division, has secured a consultancy for the extension of the Cumberland/Perseverance Watershed Management Plan. This plan seeks to, amongst other things, ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem services and the related livelihoods, such as tours etc.
“Institutional strengthening has been done as well”, revealed Crichton who added that the GCCA project has trained persons on Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping which allows one to visualise, question, analyse and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends and present geographic data.
“We have had a number of persons doing data gathering to bolster the analysis done in the local area plans…so we have trained people to collect live data and that is to input on another part of the project”, explained Crichton.
Another facet of the project is the Land Policy Initiative, which seeks to review and finalise the draft Land Policy. “The OECS has given us a lot of assistance in matters of Land policy, even outside the GCCA project from as far back as 2013, with assistance for the Draft Land Policy Issues Paper and the subsequent 2014 Draft National Land Policy” This current leg of the Land Policy development focuses on development of implementation strategies and budget considerations.
Crichton also noted that through the GCCA project, a number of community level and institutional level consultations dealing with the Building Code and strengthening the enforcement and cooperation between the financial sector and the Physical Planning Unit are being held. He said that these consultations are intended to help create better quality buildings by putting more quality control based metrics in the process of construction by adhering to proper Building Codes.
“…adherence to the Building Code is the only guarantee that there has been the minimum standard of quality to combat climatic hazards and earthquakes… adherence to the Code is what allows you to have safety”, said Crichton who said that the GCCA project seeks to make sure that persons realise that what happens on land affects what happens in the sea and vice versa.
“We are trying to pull everything together and we have all of these processes going on and the ultimate aim after everything is to update our planning laws to reflect all the lessons we would have learnt”, stressed Crichton who added that they are hoping to see how communities will react to certain ideas and as a result allow them to develop a methodology for putting climate change in the realm of more definitive planning in SVG.
SVG has over the years experienced a number of climate change issues, from a drought in 2010 that was followed by a wet period that saw 2010 going down in the local record books as the year with the most rainfall, some 119.1 inches. This figure surpassed the average annual rainfall for the last ten years.
The drought followed by the rainfall represented two disasters as was seen with the numerous landslides which isolated several communities on the Windward side of the island and severely disrupted vehicular traffic.
Hurricane Tomas on October 30th, 2010, came late reinforcing the fact that SVG must be prepared at all times for an emergency even outside the stipulated hurricane period. The damage and loss assessment for Tomas completed by the United Nations (UN) estimated $130 million in damage to agriculture, forestry and housing being mainly affected. While recovering from Tomas a surface trough on April 11th/12th 2011 dumped and average of 9.6 inches of rain in Rabacca, Perseverance and Jennings resulting in severe flash flooding and the displacement of 18 families contributing to an estimated $82 million (and continuing) worth of damage.
Also on December 24th, 2013, this country experienced a hundred-year weather event that claimed 12 lives while last year severe flooding cause millions of dollars in damage on the Windward side of the island, enforcing the importance of the GCCA project.