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Jamaica’s Third City Planners urged to Consider Environmental Resilience

Referencing the billions spent to resuscitate the country in the wake of natural disasters over the years, Director, Mitigation and Planning and Research Division in the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Michelle Edwards has urged entities engaged in developing the planned Third City to consider the island’s vulnerability to earthquakes, coastal flooding and landslides as part of the planning framework.

The government technocrat was addressing a multi-sectoral group during the inaugural Third City Workshop to hammer out details relating to the context within which the smart city would be developed and the approach to select its location. The workshop was organised by government’s leading urban and rural development planning agency, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston on September 27, 2017

Continuing, Ms Edwards said the cost of disasters would have to be considered in any design. “Any discussion we have on major development cannot be void of a look at our vulnerability. Our location along the Atlantic hurricane path makes us vulnerable to storms and hurricanes. Between 2009 and 2012 the country experienced eight major hurricanes. The impacts we have seen from these hurricanes are not direct hits. And with the way these storms are now developing, we need to give thought to how our resilience will look,” the ODPEM Director noted.

She further noted that the country’s earthquake vulnerability also needs to be considered. Miss Edwards stated that between 1998 and 2010 Jamaica experienced on average about 200 quakes per year. Furthermore, she said approximately 45 percent of the island’s communities are also ranked high to moderately high in vulnerability to natural hazards.

The ODPEM Director went on to point out that the accumulated cost for natural hazards in Jamaica between 1998 and 2012 stood at approximately US$1.8 billion, an average of J$130 million per annum. In addition, the accumulated cost of disaster represents 5.2 percent of the country’s capital budget for 2015/16.

“I don’t want to paint a doom and gloom picture, development and disasters work hand in hand and it’s just how we strike the balance,” she noted.

Speaking also at the workshop, Heather Pinnock, Deputy General Manager of the Urban Development Corporation said the Third City development would address key matters such as the increasing vulnerability of our urban centres – which are coastal – to hazards, climate change as well as crime and violence.

“It is also looking at addressing the proliferation of informal settlements across our country and the overburdened infrastructure. The aim is to look at smart technologies, alternate energy and overall natural resource management, climate resilience and sustainable governance,” she told the meeting.

She said the project has three major phases namely Site Selection, Strategic Urban Master Planning and Strategic Implementation or Build Out. As it relates to the first phase which the project is currently in, she said “ a clear and defined planning process based on select criteria to establish what will be the best location” is being employed. The Site Selection process is expected to last three months. Phase two is expected to last between 12 to18 months while Phase three will involve land acquisition, phasing of the project, financing and key investments to make the city attractive.

“What we are doing today is a multi-sectoral stakeholder review and then we go to tender. Funding has been secured for this phase and the consultants should be procured by the end of 2017. Our goal is to build a city today for tomorrow,” the UDC Deputy General Manager told the gathering.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in July 2016 mandated the newly installed Board of the UDC to create the island’s third city against the background of vulnerability through climate change for Caribbean cities and also that the dominance enjoyed by Kingston which is the centre of governance as well as the financial and commercial hub, had created an imbalance with other locations based on its excessive demand for services and the provision of infrastructure.

The workshop was part sponsored by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCO).

For further information, please contact:
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Kingston, Jamaica
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October 6, 2017