St. Lucia is a “success story” for managing risk of landslides – World Bank

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Wednesday June 12, 2013 – The World Bank has lauded St. Lucia as a “success story” within the Caribbean for its efforts in managing the risk of rainfall-triggered landslides.

The Washington-based financial institution said it has helped the St. Lucia government with “crucial information” about the causes of landslides, as well as an insight into the most at-risk areas.

Addressing the effects and causes of landslides, the bank said the Management of Slope Stability in Communities, or MoSSaiC, project reduced the risk with a three-pronged approach.

It said the first is science-based in which physical causes are localized and appropriate measures designed to address these causes, while the second approach  allows residents to be involved in identifying causes and solutions.

Additionally, community-based contractors and workers are employed to construct drainage solutions, increasing access to employment, education and training in the communities.

In the evidence-based third approach, the World Bank said “rigorous and effective quality is maintained through training and design standards” and that appropriate physical solutions are then delivered to reduce the landslide risk.

The World Bank said all the approaches work and that in October 2010, for example, despite rainfall of 50 centimeters in just 24 hours, all of the hillside communities in the capital, which had implemented the MoSSaiC programme “weathered the storm without landslides”.

It said prior to the project “these same hillsides would have shown signs of instability during much lighter rainfalls.

“(During Hurricane Tomas) the water was as high and gushing as I had ever seen before,” the World Bank quoted Eldrena St. Luce, Community Leader in Morne du Don, Castries, as saying.

“The timing of the drains being installed was so right, just before the storm, as no landslides occurred like they did before,” she added.

Before the implementation of the project, the World Bank said even a normal rainy day in Castries was “a cause for concern for the city’s most vulnerable populations”.

Surrounded by mountains, the bank noted that the steep slopes house Castries’ rapidly growing informal hillside communities. With no proper drainage or infrastructure to deal with excess surface water, the World Bank said these communities were highly vulnerable to landslides triggered by even relatively light rainfall.

It said the risk was then exacerbated by the Caribbean’s “natural weather patterns of heavy rain and frequent cyclones,” adding that the result was “a loss of property, livelihood and, in the worst cases, lives.

“All of which, pose a very real threat for development and have the potential to reverse recent progress,” the World Bank said. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)