Coastal flooding could cost Jamaica US$136 million annuallySaturday, November 23, 2019
BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
COASTAL flooding from storm surges is projected to cost Jamaica US$136.4 million in damage annually, according to the latest World Bank report on Jamaica's coastal resilience in the face of intense hurricanes related to climate change.
The report, titled Forces of Nature — Assessment and Economic Valuation of Coastal Protection Services Provided by Mangroves in Jamaica, presented evidence to show the importance of mangroves in flood risk reduction and saving Jamaica billions of dollars in damage to coastal infrastructure.
According to the study, mangrove forests in Jamaica provide over US$32.7 million in annual flood reduction benefits. This works out to more than US$2,500 per hectare each year, representing nearly 24 per cent of annual reduction in flood risk.
The report revealed that if Jamaica were to lose its current mangrove stock, the expected damages from coastal flooding would balloon to US$169 million annually, resulting in a 10 per cent increase in the total number of people affected by flooding every year.
Speaking Wednesday at the report launch at Knutsford Court Hotel in St Andrew, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation with responsibility for the environment, Daryl Vaz, said the study will inform the Government's coastal protection strategy going forward.
“These are figures that we in Jamaica cannot ignore for the simple reason that our ability to achieve economic growth and sustainable development hinges on how well we are able to mitigate and adapt against the impacts and climate change and other natural man-made risks that could derail the gains we have made as a country so far,” said Vaz.
“Much of Jamaica's physical infrastructure, such as our electrical generating plants, international airports and sea ports and major roadways, among other assets, are located near our coastline. The loss of these major assets has the potential to severely disrupt our internal and international trade. In addition, dislocation to both urban and rural communities from these potential and actual impacts, as well as their impact on our most vulnerable citizens, is incalculable,” said Minister Vaz.
“Planting new mangroves and conserving on our existing mangrove forests will help to mitigate against further erosion to our coastline. The insightful and comprehensive research that went into this study will no doubt inform our policy and plans in regards to disaster mitigation and recovery and, particularly, the conservation and restoration of our mangroves as we seek to ensure a sustainable future for our beloved country,” he added.
Linked also to the Jamaica Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project, the report incorporates the results of the underlying study and online tool developed at the international level by the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Environmental Hydraulic Institute of Cantabria, the Nature Conservancy, as well as local-level studies developed at The University of the West Indies, Mona.
The assessment was funded by the World Bank Programme on Forests (PROFOR) and was led locally by the National Environment and Planning Agency, and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.
Karen Francis, World Bank acting country representative to Jamaica, indicated that one of the key pillars of Jamaica's partnership with the World Bank is building social and climate resilience.
“The World Bank's key objective in the Caribbean is to build cross-cutting resilience to natural disasters, addressing infrastructure, fiscal and financial, human and environmental vulnerabilities.
“The bank has been working with Caribbean countries in collaboration with key development partners to build adequate protection against events that have enormous human and economic cost and are becoming more severe over time,” said Francis, emphasising Jamaica's leading role in identifying nature-based solutions to climate risk reduction.