Greater cooperation needed before and during hurricane season

Greater cooperation needed before and during hurricane season

Oneil
Madden

Friday, October 30, 2020

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In light of the inclement weather currently being experienced by Jamaica, coupled with the novel coronavirus, curfews, online schooling, etc, it is only appropriate to slightly modify the words of the self-acclaimed, internationally renowned artiste Amari: “2020, yuh mash up wi life.”

Oh, what a year it has been, yet we still have two more months to go.

Given the “many waters like Hellshire” across the country's roads, the numerous landslides, and the excessive damage done to electrical and telecommunications wires/networks, one can only imagine the further implications this will have on the education system and the economy.

Undoubtedly, several virtual classrooms and work-from-home jobs will be on shutdown for a few days. If these are just mere effects of a tropical storm, will we be able to survive a hurricane?

We have heard the cries repeatedly for better road infrastructure and drain cleaning. This requires careful design and execution, as too often we find that the Government invests heavily into these efforts, but they are not durable or sustainable. We have seen, for example, how Dr Nigel Clarke's “carpet” roads quickly returned to the state of being like an old, worn-out rug after a period of heavy rainfall. Consequently, the Government had to earmark billions of dollars to restore this issue. They will now have to increase this amount, given the current situation.

It must be a difficult time to be in power. With the economy expected to contract further, we will all have to share in this burden.

For a country located in the Caribbean Sea, and having a great wealth of experience concerning hurricanes, one is left to wonder how much we have really learned over the recent decades. We basically have a fixed period that we describe as the hurricane season; therefore, it means that there is some amount of preparation that has to take place, especially when we start to approach the month of September. However, what we find is that there is a lack of cooperation among certain key stakeholders such as the National Works Agency (NWC), the National Water Commission (NWC), the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), and the Government – primarily through its political representatives, etc.

We have to get to a point at which the citizens, through their community and political representatives, alert the JPS and the Jamaica Forestry Department of the possible risks that could result from land slips, thus causing damage to cable wires. There are many rural communities, for instance, that have a lot of trees that grow closely to these wires. Greater prevention is needed. It is currently autumn in France, and where I live it is common practice for the tall trees to be groomed in preparation for the season, as well as throughout, if necessary.

In addition, the JPS needs to have a better monitoring approach through the use of community representatives. We often see electrical wires overlapping — 'kissing' as we say in more familiar terms — resulting in fire and the loss of electricity. Sometimes this situation is persistent and calls to JPS are most times futile in these times. It often takes the media to highlight the situation for them to see and get attention. However, maybe if we had specific people in the JPS that we could call, we could perhaps avoid an escalation of some of these cases when they occur.

It is an understatement to highlight the interconnectivity between the NWA and the NWC. We often see the mess that is left behind in the Corporate Area and parts of St Catherine whenever either of them does work on the roads. The consequences are usually dire — impassable roads or lack of water for a couple days. And bear in mind that even during moments of absence of water and electricity, utility bills remain the same or get even higher.

At the community level, citizens must continue to play an active role in disposing their waste properly and cleaning drains and gullies. Frankly, some people are just too nasty. It is really embarrassing to see the clogged drains and gullies featured on the news every so often.

Additionally, citizens must take responsibility for where they decide to plant a house. We have witnessed too many unfortunate incidents in the past involving people losing their lives due to their house collapsing during stormy weather. At the same time, however, do many of these people even have a choice as to where to erect a house? The Government needs to also consider citizens who do not fall in the category of young or civil servants, in terms of housing solutions.

While we are contemplating these issues, we cannot rule out the necessity of educating people about climate change; we change, climate change – however you wish to interpret this.

 

Oneil Madden is a PhD candidate in didactics and linguistics at the Université Clermont Auvergne, France. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or oneil.madden@uca.fr.

 


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