Environment

UWI unveils Caribbean Disaster Risk Atlas

BY DENISE DENNIS Environment Watch staff reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2012    

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THE University of the West Indies' (UWI's) Institute for Sustainable Development on Monday unveiled the Caribbean Disaster Risk Atlas, intended to enhance the region's ability to cope with natural events, such as earthquakes and floods.

The atlas, officially launched at the Mona Visitors' Lodge in Kingston, is to enable analysis to guard against losses in Jamaica, as elsewhere in the region, and is to be used in the development of comprehensive risk management strategies.

The US$510,000 initiative is funded through the World Bank and is being managed by the Seismic Research Unit at UWI's St Augustine campus in Trinidad and the Mona GeoInformatics Institute.

The atlas, which currently contains spatial data on risk from floods and earthquakes in Jamaica, Barbados and Grenada -- the islands where it was piloted -- is to be made available to technical experts as well as general users.

A workshop and symposium on the atlas is to be held today and tomorrow at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios.

The initiative, according to chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Committee (CCAC) Conrad Douglas, is a step in the right direction.

"While scientific data has documented the linkages between sustainable development, ecosystem degradation and climate change-related disasters, they are, unfortunately, still not yet well-acknowledged by policymakers. As a consequence, these linkages are not fully reflected in disaster management and risk reduction plans," he said.

The current deficit in the enforcement of science-based policies, Douglas argued, must be corrected.

"We are all aware that disaster risk is driven by factors, such as poverty, urbanisation, poor land-use planning and ecosystem degradation, which are all developmental challenges. Environmentally polluting economic activities, for instance, [the] destruction of sea grass, coral reefs [and] forests cause irreversible ecosystems damage, destroy livelihoods, and thus increase the vulnerability of communities to all types of disasters," he said.

"It is only through the guidance of accurate scientific knowledge that we will be able to plan properly, reduce our exposure to risks, ensure sufficient adaptation, and provide a healthy Jamaica for our people," the CCAC chair added.

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