Developing climate resilient infrastructure
Small island states such as Jamaica in the Caribbean, are most affected by shifting climate patterns. UN-Habitat programs tackles the challenges.
by Kirsten Milhahn (Text and Photos)
Every year the residents of the informal settlements in Jamaica’s coastal cities brace themselves for the hurricane season. In November 2017 most of those living in North Gully, an informal settlement on the hillside near the centre of Montego Bay, had to be evacuated, especially those residing in the lower areas of the community. Heavy rains, water levels of over 3.5 metres, and floods washed away the houses and small businesses of the poor. They also flooded large parts of the city centre. The city's beaches were also polluted as the hurricane deposited large amounts of garbage that had been dumped by the inhabitants of North Gully into the gully that cuts across the settlement. With the water levels reached up to 3.6 metres, residents lost all their property and the local economy ground to a halt for several weeks.
In the last few years, scientists have observed that the hurricane season in the Caribbean from June to November is becoming more destructive. This change has been attributed to global warming. This is bad news for North Gully which has narrow, almost inaccessible footpaths, limited waste management and little security. The homes are often unstable, mostly built of wooden boards on the steep slope.
UN-Habitat’s Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) is tackling the challenging situation on the ground through a joint programme called ‘Pro-poor Planning of Climate Resilience in Marginalized Neighborhoods’. PSUP conducted a situation analysis of informal settlements in Jamaica based on urban profiling. It also delivered a policy and regulatory framework review and a prevention strategy for Montego Bay. North Gully’s community served as a pilot where detailed mapping of the entire area was carried out to identify the drivers of risk and to support the local authorities to developing plans to reduce these.