THE GOVERNMENT of St Vincent & the Grenadines has budgeted EC$99 million (or US$36.4 million) for sea and river defence and related works this financial year, in a move to offer the island protection from flooding and other climate hazards.
The announcement was made by Minister with responsibility for National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson, at the launch of a workshop put on by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund of the Caribbean Development Bank, for community development practitioners across the ministry and its agencies on February 10.
In addition to the capital expenditure works, the Gonsalves-led administration has some EC$30 million set aside to respond to natural disaster shocks.
“Though all of these monies are in the capital estimates in the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Mobilisation, when the work is started, we have to be involved because they’re the river defence and sea defence works,” Stephenson told practitioners at the National Emergency Management Organisation in Kingstown, where the workshop was being held.
“You have an important role to play in those areas because you have to go first of all into the communities and get the community involvement to buy into these projects,” he added.
The minister said both the capital expenditure projects and the disaster fund were critical to buffering the tiny island in light of globally accepted science that climate change is likely to wreak havoc across the Caribbean in coming years, as well as the presence of La Soufriere in the country’s northern tip.
“In our case here in SVG, I must remind you that we also have our big brother on the top of the hill, our La Soufriere volcano, and even though it has not erupted since 1979, it’s still an active volcano,” he recounted.
He also spoke of the recent flooding experiences of Saint Vincent, which in 2013 saw some 13,000 persons impacted while 2016 saw 25,000 persons affected with losses of some five per cent of national gross domestic product.
It was in the wake of the 2016 floods that government introduced a one per cent tax on phone calls to create an emergency response fund, which has accumulated some $30.5 million.
The minister’s comments at the workshop were aligned with the theme: ‘Improving Inclusive Disaster Risk Management through Strengthened Community-based Organisations’. It is being executed by the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund.
The workshop, which is similar to one previously staged in St Ann, Jamaica, is targeting practitioners in a train-the-trainer kind of approach, as well as community members themselves. Both groups will be trained in the weeklong workshop which runs until tomorrow.