Members of staff from the Ministry of Transport and Works participating in the Certificate in Administration Management course at MIND were lauded for their efforts at organizing a seminar to highlight issues relating to ‘No-Build Zones and Building regulations in Jamaica”.

Less than a year since Tropical Storm Nicole ravaged Jamaica’s road network and infrastructure, resulting in billions of dollars in damage and repairs, and with only two months into the hurricane season, Director General at the Office of Disaster preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, speaking at the symposium held at the MIND Institute in Kingston recently, is underscoring the importance of Jamaicans adhering to the principle of “no-build zones” in order to protect life and property in the event of natural disasters.

Mr. Jackson, while commending the organizers for the timely nature of the symposium, lamented the exponential increase in the cost of disaster mitigation, response and recovery to the Jamaican economy, compounded by the increase in human settlement in hazardous geographical areas.

“There are currently over 465 vulnerable communities in the country, 20% of which are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.”

He noted that between 1980 and 2008, there were 27 natural disasters to affect the island, coupled with a price tag of over $85 billion in recovery cost to the economy over the last decade. He added that storms account for approximately US$ 2.5 billion.

"“Jamaica has the second highest economic exposure because the geographic and geotechnical characteristics expose the country to a variety of natural hazards. The expected losses from climate risk are approximately 6% of GDP. When the human element and inappropriate human settlement is thrown in the mix, for example, persons building on gully banks and along river channels, the resulting costs will undoubtedly increase.”

Mr. Jackson however, cautioned that with the Caribbean being one of the most hazardous and vulnerable geographic regions in terms of natural disasters and its limited land space, the non-observance of a proper and effective building policy will result in a significant threat to Jamaica’s sustainable development, and will compromise the country achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s)

In further underscoring the need for no-build zones and effective policing of regulations, Town Clerk at the KSAC, Errol Greene, emphasized the importance of adhering to standards, policies and guidelines for obtaining approvals from the relevant authorities before construction takes place. He said that while balancing the need for housing solutions and human settlement, there needs to be a paradigm shift in cultural and mental practices that will place added value on human life, thereby minimizing the accompanying trauma arising from natural disasters.

"Organizers for the symposium, Tamara Grey-Clarke and Bridgette Howell, who also work in the Projects and Administration Departments at the Ministry of Transport and Works, were elated with their efforts at shedding light on an issue that pins on the country’s economic development. Mrs. Grey-Clarke said that the damage to the country’s road network, bridges, gullies, drains, human lives and property has been a constant problem, and is heightened especially during the hurricane season, and encouraged other stakeholders to be proactive in order to minimize such trauma.