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.
North Gully, with approximately 300 householdes is the largest informal settlement in the city centre of Montego Bay. Richard Vernon, as the Councillor of Montego Bay South Division keeps the dialogue with the local community
In North Gully, the youth in particular run the risk of slipping into gang crime or drug trafficking
Public space in North Gully is scarce. Children playing on a playground which belongs to the church in the settlement
Vernon visits the local church in the settlement, which invests into education of the children in the neighbourhoods
View over North Gully
In the streets of Montego Bay
Montego Bay on National Heros’ Day on the Sam Sharpe Square in the city center
Councillor Homer Davis, Mayor of Montego Bay holds a speech on the National Heros’ Day
Awards Ceremony on the Sam Sharpe Square National Heros’ Day in the city center of Montego Bay
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.