McKen­zie: Cli­mate change hit­ting us hard

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Okoye Henry/Gleaner Writer

THE GOVERN­MENT of Ja­maica has said it is pre­pared to take a proac­tive ap­proach to sud­den ac­ci­dents and nat­u­ral catas­tro­phes by es­tab­lish­ing a new fund­ing pro­gramme to re­spond to dam­age caused by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie made the an­nounce­ment on Thurs­day while ad­dress­ing the World Town Plan­ning Day 2018 Con­fer­ence at Jewel Grande in Mon­tego Bay, St James.

While he did not give the specifics, McKen­zie said the pro­gramme was ap­proved by Cab­i­net on Mon­day and will be a top pri­or­ity of the Govern­ment, which has been spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars each year in re­sponse to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters caused by cli­mate change.

“The PIOJ (the Plan­ning In­sti­tute of Ja­maica) re­port in 2012 in­di­cated that be­tween the year 2001 and 2012, the coun­try ex­pe­ri­enced 11 storms, in­clud­ing five ma­jor hur­ri­canes, sev­eral flood­ings and the cost ef­fect to the econ­omy of the coun­try amount­ing to $129 bil­lion,” said McKen­zie.

“In fact, the dam­age caused by Hur­ri­cane Ivan in 2004 was equiv­a­lent to eight per cent GDP (gross do­mes­tic prod­uct) and in 2012, Hur­ri­cane Sandy ac­counted for 0.8 per cent GDP. This is the kind of dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect that a small coun­try like us can ex­pe­ri­ence,” added McKen­zie.

WIDE­SPREAD DROUGHT

The min­is­ter fur­ther stated that wide­spread drought con­di­tions caused by cli­mate change across parishes such as St El­iz­a­beth, St James, Port­land and Manch­ester have also been cost­ing the coun­try sig­nif­i­cant sums of money.

“This has forced the ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­spond and be spend­ing in ex­cess of J$450 mil­lion to al­le­vi­ate drought con­di­tions across the coun­try. We have built wa­ter shops in Claren­don, Manch­ester and sev­eral other ar­eas as we move to try to al­le­vi­ate and give res­i­dents ac­cess to potable drink­ing wa­ter,” con­tin­ued McKen­zie.

“In­tense rain­fall has re­sulted in sig­nif­i­cant flood­ing in Mon­tego Bay, May Pen, Claren­don, Hanover, and Kingston. It was just over a year ago that the city of Mon­tego Bay was washed away. Two weeks ago, when we had the rains in Kingston, less than an hour of rain­fall, the city was grid­locked, locked down,” stated McKen­zie.

How­ever, the min­is­ter sought to make it clear that the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion is not to be blamed for flood­ing and droughts af­fect­ing the coun­try as ac­cord­ing to him, the coun­try has ne­glected its in­fras­truc­tures over the years.

“You will re­mem­ber in Kingston when the Bus­ta­man­teled govern­ment de­cided to build the Sandy Gully. Many peo­ple were crit­i­cal of the govern­ment, call­ing it ‘gully govern­ment,’ say­ing that the only thing that the govern­ment wanted to do is to build gully,” said McKen­zie. “Well, let us thank God for the Sandy Gully be­cause if it wasn’t built then Kingston would not ex­ist today.”

“Cli­mate change is be­ing seen and felt right across the re­gion. There are more in­tense hur­ri­cane con­di­tions and in­creas­ing rain­fall, where we see now that there is hardly any­more sea­sonal pe­riod for rain,” added McKen­zie.

MCKEN­ZIE

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