Black River, St Elizabeth — CONVINCED that inadequate planning is at the root cause of much of the flood damage in St Elizabeth in recent years, the St Elizabeth Parish Council is moving to get expert assistance.
Mayor of Black River and chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council, Jeremy Palmer told journalists following the last council meeting in March that he had invited the University of the West Indies-based Mona GeoInformatics Institute to assist local planners with scientific data.
"I think they (Mona Geoinformatics) are at the stage where they can tell you where the bug gullies are now, where the areas are prone to flooding ... how storms will impact particular areas in Jamaica, all of those things... They have that kind of information and we need to get that into our system," said Palmer.
The Mayor said preliminary preparation was being done for a planning ceremony to involve the experts and "all stakeholders".
Palmer's comments came as an outgrowth of sustained discussion in the parish council regarding improper use of land in flood prone sections of the parish.
"I think that much of the disasters we have faced in St Elizabeth and islandwide is caused by very poor planning with people building in gully courses, putting large structures on very fragile ecosystems...," said Palmer.
"Flooding is not a big issue until people's habitats are flooded out or their roadway is blocked, that is when flooding becomes a really big issue that is when it becomes a disaster...," he said.
He identified a number of communities including Parottee, Treasure Beach, Greenfield, New Market, New River and New Holland as areas where residents are consistently flooded out "because of what people have done to disturb the environment..."
The last major flooding episode in St Elizabeth came in late September/early October last year when rains associated with Tropical Storm Nicole left several dead and billions of dollars in damage islandwide. Sections of New Market in North West St Elizabeth remained flooded for several months.
At the March parish council meeting, councillors and planners were agreed that greater attention would have to be paid to ensuring rigour in the process of building approvals.