Plans afoot To Boost Barbados’ Disaster Resilience

The growing intensity of weather systems is the new norm, and the way business is done in the Caribbean has to change.

Fresh from a tour of the damage in the Bahamas, caused by Category five Hurricane Dorian, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley made it clear that the way business was done in Barbados and the Caribbean had to change, as it related to preparing for such weather systems.

Speaking during a press conference at Government Headquarters on Friday, Ms. Mottley outlined Government’s plan of action going forward, to boost Barbados’ resilience.

“Our duty is to not only report what we saw, it is to determine how we move forward.  To sit and do nothing would be to leave our people not just in Barbados, but the entire region vulnerable to a fate that is worse than war.  We have a responsibility as Caribbean people to redefine how we live, and how we bolster our resilience for what is clearly a new norm,” Ms. Mottley said.

Topping the list of proposed changes is the way houses are built in Barbados. Prime Minister Mottley said that this would be done as part of Government’s capital transformation project, Roofs to Reefs.

She explained that Cabinet had agreed that the Ministry of Housing would issue a request for proposals, inviting architects and engineers to submit three to four designs for low and middle income houses, following a town hall meeting to alert them about the process and expectations.

“Once that contest has been won as to whose designs we take from the architects and the engineers…we need to have the Ministry of [Information, Broadcasting and] Public Affairs do some videos, and the Ministry of Education [Technological and Vocational] Training do the training, so that our artisans and people who want to build on their own are given the tools to be able to prepare themselves for this new reality,” Ms. Mottley pointed out.

 This, she said, would occur by working out how the regulatory framework was handled with respect to the Town Planning and the new building code, particularly for houses over a certain size, where the liability would be shifted to the professionals, such as engineers, architects and quantity surveyors.

The second part of Government’s action plan involves the clean-up process, which Prime Minister Mottley described as being “critical” and should involve clearing the alleys, canals, water courses and around residences.

“The Government will do its part, the NCC [National Conservation Commission] will do its part, MTW [Ministry of Transport, Works and Maintenance] will do its part; but with the best will in the world, the Government, NCC, MTW cannot do it all, but the country can do it…,” she stressed.

She added that it was also important for persons to remove objects that could become missiles from around their homes, and noted that the bulky waste site at Bagatelle, St. Thomas, would soon be reopened, while another in the south of the island was expected to come on stream soon.

“We must now become a resilient people, not just Barbadians, but Caribbean people across the board.  That readiness and resilience comes from us preparing ourselves in how we build, and in how we keep around our environment,” she said.