The Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) is advising regional states to view the recent observance of the first anniversary of Tropical Storm Erika in Dominica as a reminder of the vulnerability of small coastal communities to natural disasters.
The storm was the deadliest natural disaster in Dominica since Hurricane David in 1979, claiming 31 lives and destroying up to 500 homes. Several communities were cut off from the rest of the island, and the Roosevelt Skerrit administration was left with an EC $1 billion bill to repair infrastructural damage.
CDEMA Executive Director Ronald Jackson noted that countries now needed to pay attention to issues of sound development planning, and to “begin to look at where we allow people to build”.
“In the case of Dominica we saw where there were a number of homes that were precariously sited within the confluence of the flood hazard itself, and that’s something that’s not only in Dominica. It’s something that we’ve seen in many of the vulnerable island states across the region, from the bigger ones like Jamaica, all the way to St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica.
“So the development planning process, the approval process, the development control process is something that has to be looked at across the region as it relates to disaster risk,” Jackson said.
He also pointed to the issue of climate change and implications for rising sea levels as well as the need to strengthen the National Disaster Preparedness and response capabilities.
“We also saw as some of the lessons, the emergency management legislation and policy framework for comprehensive disaster management. Draft legislation has been prepared, some of the policies have been established by CDEMA.
“Not many of them have been integrated effectively into the respective countries. I think probably about two countries or so have so far passed new disaster management legislation. A few of them have also established their disaster management policy,” Jackson said.
He added that countries needed to go beyond the enactment of legislation and policies, and they needed to ensure that such measures were monitored and enforced.