In the past twenty years, the Caribbean has been hit by numerous disastrous or potentially disastrous events; earthquakes (Haiti), drought (Caribbean wide), Hurricanes across the island chain. We now also face the threat of Tsunamis triggering the creation of a Tsunami Warning Center in the Caribbean. In some instances, these disasters had devastating effects on the affecting territories. We faced the awesome strengths several brothers Hugo, George, Lenny and Omar. In 1999, Hurricane Lenny approached Nevis from the west and severely damaged our western coastline resulting in an extended closure of the Four Seasons Resort and the partial destruction of the then newly constructed deep
water pier. A similar effect occurred with Hurricane Omar in 2008, resulting in the Resort being closed to date with its reopening being planned some two years after the event.
The damage from natural hazards experienced by St Kitts and Nevis and the high costs associated with recovery indicate a need for a proactive approach to disaster management. Vulnerability to natural hazards is dependent on location, type of development and environmental conditions. Vulnerability will therefore increase as communities grow and develop.
No longer is it sufficient for Governments to settle for disaster management strategies which speak simply to preparation just prior to the disaster or post disaster recovery efforts. Governments must seek to broaden the scope of its disaster management efforts to include strategies which speak to enhancing hazard mitigation activities, programmes and policies in all sectors. Such strategies are aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the population and economic activities to natural hazards.”
The Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, during the plenary meeting of the Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, organized by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland stated that disaster reduction “is critical to the socio-economic development of our nations and the well-being of their peoples”. It is therefore essential to understand that “the challenge of natural disaster risk reduction is a hemispheric one and therefore requires the fullest attention of political leaders.”
Ramdin explained that “from the perspective of the Organization of American States there is little doubt that dealing with the challenges of disaster risk reduction requires a holistic perspective. We believe that risk reduction should be an integral component of strategic development programming and of sound governance.” He also explained that “we have to continue advocating partnerships and alliances within and between societies to more effectively coordinate efforts, mobilize resources and implement recovery and reconstruction programs.”
Natural disasters, especially hurricanes, once thought to be perhaps a once in a lifetime event are now thought be unavoidable occurrences. Within the last twenty (20) years the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has been severely affected by the many hurricanes including:
While the 'Hurricane Capital of the Caribbean' goes to the island of Abaco in the Bahamas, with 18 severe hurricanes since 1851 (which is on average one hurricane per 8-9 years), since 1944, Key West and Nevis have seen the most severe hurricanes (7 or about one every 8-9 years).
Disaster Management is at a cross roads in terms of its future development as it transitions to providing leadership in the area of risk reduction and comprehensive disaster management. Given the impact of climate change and the increased frequency of disasters in the Caribbean regions, coupled with the limited availability of external funding, it is essential that all Government agencies and Civil Society embrace this important theme and ensure that risk reduction is allocated a primary role in planning, development and the implementation of projects. The current Nevis Disaster Plan is significantly outdated and needs urgent revamping as well as the development of staffing skills, personnel and financial support. The formulation of policies, guidelines and regulations is also a necessity.
The Physical Planning & Development Ordinance is the key to the establishment of the overall planning process, especially as it relates to development control and land use planning. Currently the Department operates without the necessary supporting regulation/polices such as Natural Hazard Impact Assessment (NHIA) (currently the management of development does not systematically take into account reduction of exposure to or mitigation as a result of natural hazards), EIA regulations and other essential guidelines, this makes it very difficult to effectively regulate development activities and manage land usage. “NHIA is designed to identify the linkages between natural hazards and the project through an assessment of the natural hazards that are likely to affect or result from the project and an assessment of the project’s vulnerability to and risk of loss from hazards. An NHIA is an integral component of and extension to the environmental review process, in that it encourages explicit consideration and mitigation of natural hazard risk.” A complete legislative framework will provide an opportunity for good governance where both public and private interests in land are adequately guided.
The Department is also in need of Legislation and Regulations that would bring about benefits to the island of Nevis for all concerned, so that appropriate developments are allowed, and unauthorized or unsustainable developments are identified and prevented. Projects that would cause potential negative impacts can be assessed and mitigated so that the benefits far outweigh the costs.
The Disaster Management Department has finally after more than 15 years, been provided with its own facility – the Llewellyn Newton Disaster Management Facility. The facility, which was partially constructed by the U.S. Southern Military Command (U.S. Southcom), includes a meeting & training room, agency and audio visual rooms, offices, communications room and warehouse. The training envisioned in this project is proposed for this facility which has become a facility used by multiple agencies for a variety of purposes. The procurement of equipment for training, as part of this project, has a dual purpose of providing much needed equipment for mitigation activities and response to natural or man-made disasters, and for critical simulation exercises. The expansion of this facility is been planned as it must operate as a standalone facility in the event of a disaster, accommodating Government operations until the situation becomes more manageable.
Further, the current Nevis Disaster Plan is outdated (drafted in 1995) and in needs of an urgent re-design incorporating modern ideas and organizational arrangements, while implementing the theme of comprehensive Disaster Management championed by the Caribbean Disaster & Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Policy development related to Disaster Management is also an expected output from this project.
The purpose of this multi-agency and multi-sectoral project is to streamline disaster management in Nevis by focusing on pre and post disaster management processes including mitigation; impact assessment capabilities; focused legislation; regulatory standards; evaluation and enhancement of organizational capabilities; public awareness and the production of disaster management plans. Departments directly involved in the project execution include Economic Planning & Statistics; Physical Planning, Natural Resource and Environment and Tourism, with other stakeholder agencies in Nevis also involved.
A number of training workshops and consultations will be held as part of the project and it is our intention to invite participation from various stakeholders in St. Kitts. Some consultation has already occurred with the National Emergency Management Agency.
We are in the process of communicating with Regional and International organisations for their provision of technical assistance/support for the implementation of the project. These agencies are well positioned and can provide additional technical support that covers various aspects of the project. Some of these agencies also have recently launched projects that are targeted to St. Kitts & Nevis that will provide similar objectives and further support to the OAS Project. These include the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for support in the delivery of the following project components:
CDEMA - An Island Disaster Plan and local adaptation of the Regional Tourism Disaster Strategy produced by OAS and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) as well as the development of school based education in disaster management. UNECLAC - Economic evaluation/assessment following a disaster CDB - Training and implementation of Natural Hazard Impact Assessments and creation of standards, guidelines and regulations for the Nevis Physical Development Plan and legislation.
The aim of the partner agencies in this multi-agency and multi-sectoral project is to streamline disaster management by focusing on pre and post disaster management processes including mitigation; impact assessment capabilities; focused legislation; regulatory standards; evaluation and enhancement of organizational capabilities; public awareness and the production of disaster management plans.
The project will:
• enable the Nevis Island Administration to more accurately assess the impact of natural disasters on the economy and therefore the livelihood of its citizens, in addition to providing base line data and useful information for future events • provide technical support and evidence for the government when making request for financial assistance from regional and international organizations. • regularize planning processes by providing standards, regulations and guidelines • provide training in a number of areas including total impact assessment (natural hazard, environmental and economic) and in planning development and control • provide information to the general public on all selected aspects relating to physical and economic planning and disaster management • provide equipment for use in various training programs and for use in disaster management situations • provide significantly enhanced Disaster Management plan, structure, policies and processes to the benefit of all stakeholders • enhance the vetting of development activities so that they can be sustainable for current and future generations, so that full economic and social benefits can be realized • ensure that mitigation planning is integrated into all essential aspects of the institutional framework resulting in risk reduction measures • enhance the capabilities of selected agencies through a review of the organization, identifying required skills/training to ensure the ability to undertake appropriate mitigation activities • develop additional mechanisms to prepare for and recover from disasters which affect the tourism infrastructure and product • develop school based disaster programmes accessible to students, creating greater awareness and education.
Specific elements of the Project to be completed by July 2011, a duration of 14 months, includes:
Capacity Strengthening for Economic Planning Department and other agencies to include workshop of 4 days duration to train 25 participants to conduct an Economic Impact Assessment after a natural disaster. It is the intention to evaluate the impact of Hurricane Omar as an exercise.
Capacity Strengthening for Physical Planning Department which will involve the provision of technical assistance for the drafting and development of planning standards, regulations and guidelines. Also for improvement of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) incorporating Natural Hazard Impact Assessment (NHIA) procedures as a standard development assessment coupled with training of key personnel to enforce existing the regulations and standards, and to enhance the vetting and analysis of EIA’s. Additionally, the incorporation of Natural Hazard Impact Assessments (NHIA’s) as developed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), into (Environmental Impact Assessments) EIA’s is also deemed essential and critical.
Capacity Strengthening for Disaster Management Department to include the development a comprehensive Nevis Disaster Management Plan, incorporating all the elements of Comprehensive Disaster Management as championed by CDEMA and with their support. This will involve information gathering and needs assessment on a multi-agency level. The development of a schools-based disaster preparedness program building on existing programs in the Primary & Secondary levels and involving available resources at the Department of Education and the schools, to create greater awareness and education. The procurement of equipment is also a component of the project to enhance the use of information and communication technologies and to cater to training needs.
Streamlining of all new Department procedures, public awareness, and sensitization of Ministry of Tourism and Tourism Authority utilizing a workshop to streamline disaster management processes to sensitize and develop incentives and standards for the Tourism industry.
We welcome this opportunity given by the Organisation of the American States in partnership with other regional and International agencies and intend to maximize its outputs and outcomes. A special thanks to Mr. Starret Greene and Mr. Auren Manners and the other partner agencies whose support was essential in the successful presentation of this critical project proposal.
Remarks by Lester Blackett Project Coordinator - OAS Project Director - Nevis Disaster Management Department