Careers & Education

Environment minister gives new hazards atlas stamp of approval

‘A decision-making tool’

Sunday, September 30, 2012    

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A new publication makes it easier for homeowners and planners to determine the extent of their vulnerability to common natural hazards, such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, and hurricanes that impact Jamaica.

It is called the Natural Hazards Atlas of Jamaica and was written by University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, academics Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jnr and Rafi Ahmad. It is intended to be a useful decision-making tool.

Speaking at the launch of the book last Wednesday, Minister of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill attested to this. He said decision makers can now "finally stop second-guessing with natural hazards" as the Atlas "can be utilised by planners and decision makers as well as homeowners to determine what disasters they are prone to and their vulnerability".

The book, which is divided into three sections, details hazards by parishes in order to provide specific information, especially for localised planning. It covers, too, the physical geography of Jamaica, including its landscape and landforms, geology, and natural environment, as well as common hazards on the island in a graphic and stylised format.

Lyew-Ayee, who is the director of Mona GeoInformatics Institute and head of the Department of Geography and Geology at UWI, Mona, said it also adopts an easy-to-use writing style, complete with photos, diagrams, helpful statistics, maps, and information in the interest of a generalised and non-technical audience.

"The Atlas will allow persons to educate themselves," he added.

Jamaica is susceptible to four types of hazards based on the research presented in the Natural Hazards Atlas of Jamaica, namely floods, landslides, earthquakes and hurricanes.

The co-author, who was represented by his son Dr Ghazzali Ahmad, noted that the book — work on which began in 1986 — was intended as a response to the "mysterious land movement at Preston, St Mary" and uses existing research from a wide range of sources.

"The Atlas [also] complements the long-standing work of the UWI, Mona, Disaster Studies Unit in promoting hazard awareness," said the university in a release to the media. "The Unit has sought to continually provide public education, advocacy and technical support to the Government and other decision makers regarding capacity building and developing human resources."

"In addition, the UWI, Mona, offers programmes at the undergraduate and graduate level on natural hazards and [their] management, and summer programmes in geo-hazards. A major input of the unit includes the preparation of natural hazard maps, including the first GIS-based hazard map and the facilitation of the creation of natural hazard databases and a virtual disaster library," the institution added.

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