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By K. Badenock

I was heartened momentarily after reading an article in your online paper title “Caribbean awaits Trump moves on climate funding, Paris deal”. Then I continued reading and was disappointed, to say the least. While I applaud the efforts of our prime minister towards empowering the nation in our battle against nature, I cannot help but feel that we are not doing enough. Whether this is from ignorance or … that is left for debate. It is a positive step in the right direction to set up a contingency fund for disasters, after all, whether we choose to believe in global warming or climate change, there is no denying the fact that, as a region, we have been experiencing significant variations in climate and have been forced to deal with the results.

Many First World nations have a similar contingency fund although the ways it is managed and collected may differ. While some Vincentians may see the importance of such a fund, most will question its significance along those lines often seen through party-coloured glasses. Notwithstanding, it is a good move but, if other steps are not taken, will only perpetuate the “hand-out” culture that we have seen in this country. Agenda 21, arising out of the United Nations Conference on Earth and Development in 1992, states that “Governments, in cooperation, where appropriate, with international organisations, should strengthen national institutional capability and capacity to integrate social, economic, developmental and environmental issues… moving away from narrow sectoral approaches, progressing towards full cross-sectoral coordination and cooperation”. UNSD (1992). In order to help St. Vincent and the Grenadines move ahead, we need to rethink the way disasters are managed locally.

Now, a natural hazard only becomes a disaster when people are involved. This is similar to the question of whether a tree falling in the middle of the forest when no one is around still makes a sound. We have a growing population and more frequent hazard events where the population is based. It stands to reason then, that we will then have more disasters. If this is the case, why are we limiting the scope of the organisation developed to manage such disasters? The organisation I refer to here is NEMO.

According to its website, NEMO’s mission is to “…coordinate the use of all available resources (local, regional and international) to ensure that all the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are better able to mitigate against disasters, prepare for disaster, respond to disasters and recover from the impact of disaster.” Yet, most of what NEMO does is response and recovery. Very little scientific work is done on evaluating and mapping hazards, combining this with vulnerability and risk assessments to develop an actual response and mitigation plan. That is no comment on our capacity to predict and prepare for an emergency. It just requires extra thought and effort.

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Firstly, inter-ministerial collaboration is required. There is no reason why data collected by one ministry and relevant to the others is kept isolated and hard to reach. It only gets in the way of progress. I refer specifically to GIS data.

Secondly, the public sector needs to be streamlined in order to facilitate this cooperation. There is much too much unnecessary “red tape”. If we are serious about getting work done, then we need to allow work to be done.

Thirdly, we need to develop a safety culture in SVG. Personal safety is compromised in the workplace, on the roads, in the home, in the name of profit or just laziness. This attitude has to change. Many can remember Tropical Storm Tomas when the SSU had to go into town and ask vendors to go home. This is just ridiculous. Or how about the many two- and three-storey houses on stilts around this earthquake prone country? I am sure, if checked, most of these stilts are not built according to any standard. What about enforcing building standards or having building standards? Let us not forget land-use planning. Most of the Georgetown valley is liable to flooding but, even after the last major flood, the authorities rebuilt flat houses there. We need to change how we look at safety. Finally, we need public service employees interested in actually serving. No one is going to stand in line to make changes if the process is not improved.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

2 replies on “Moving beyond the disaster contingency fund”

  1. Yes sir, it is not enough to “Just React” to disasters. In addition to your suggestions, Vincentians need to:

    1. Get into the habit of insuring their properties to manage the risk of disasters. And the government must discourage citizens from relying on Government to compensate and rebuild private properties damaged by natural disasters.
    2. Government must do more to manage the rivers and coastal areas to prevent flooding and erosion. We needs substantial dams and retention basins to manage our water sources, provide for irrigation, recreation, aquaculture, and diversion of water from heavy rains.
    3. We must have regular inspections of our vivers and streams to remove fallen trees, overgrowth and other material that can serve to destroy/damage our bridges when the rivers “come down” due to heavy rains.
    4. Government need to employ a cadre of qualified persons to manage the forest, the rivers, and vulnerable/erosion-prone sites.

    Vinci Vin

  2. I would not promote a war on the environment, guess who will win that one? We are going through a terrible climate change period right now. The fake scientists are not telling you about the solar activity and the wobble of the earth.

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