KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday May 18, 2017 – Government will be providing financial assistance to people who have been severely affected by flooding across Jamaica in the past few days.
The assurance has come from Prime Minister Andrew Holness who said the funds to make that possible will come from the Consolidated Fund.
The worst affected parishes were Clarendon, Manchester, Portland, St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas, Westmoreland and St Ann, with houses almost submerged in floodwaters and roads and bridges damaged.
“The Government has to now go and take a second look at its Budget to see what areas we may have to reallocate, postpone expenditure on, because it is now a priority for people to recover,” he said yesterday during a tour of the affected communities.
He noted that while the assistance “may not be [enough] to restore everyone to their former state”, it will be sufficient to get people back on their feet.
Holness has also indicated that authorities will have to scrutinize where people build going forward, as this is one of the factors that make some communities susceptibility to flooding, erosion and land slippages.
“It is clear that we are experiencing weather events of greater intensity and with greater frequency than before and it is indeed putting a strain…on the existing infrastructure. There is already done a…master drainage plan for Jamaica and that has to be now fast tracked in terms of how we implement it, but I think there are greater issues.
“Where people choose to live will now have to take on greater scrutiny. Informal settlement, haphazard settlement – those things cannot be allowed to continue in our future. The cost of it is just too much, and it’s not just the cost in infrastructure and the cost in housing, but it’s the cost in lives,” he told reporters.
The Prime Minister said his government will be more proactive in ensuring that people do not settle in areas that are likely to experience weather-related difficulties.
“The government has already formed the view, and we will now try to put that into policy, to take a far more proactive approach to how we deal with the settlement of the land and how people choose to live,” he said.
Meantime, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie says the damage caused by the heavy rainfall is a clear indication that the country’s infrastructure network is inadequate to deal with such occurrences.
He said the unprecedented level of rainfall in some parishes was way beyond what was calculated for in the original planning and development of the communities.
“The population in most communities and town centres has grown beyond what it was 10 to 20 years ago. Nobody can deny that a lot of effort was made in having drains cleaned across the country. What we are experiencing is a level of rainfall that the parishes have not seen in quite a long time – over 10 inches within the first two days. Simply put, the drains were overwhelmed,” McKenzie said, adding that the situation was compounded by people carrying out construction in “no build” zones, the chopping down of trees and shrubbery on the hillsides for agricultural cultivation, and destruction of the hills to build houses and burn coal.
A review is to be undertaken of existing structures, particularly in town centres and other urban areas of the country, to see where drainage capacity can be significantly expanded in the short to medium term.