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Patricia Green | Chaka Chaka Development and Lipstick Sustainability | On point

Jamaica remains a special case for sustainable development given its unique and particular vulnerabilities, classified by the United Nations as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS).

Maximilian Pardo in The year 2020 or the perfect storm writes: “…SIDS are on the front lines of multiple climate and natural crises that are now being amplified by the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown…”. The question arises with June 1 when the 2022 hurricane season begins. Has vulnerability increased? Pardo adds, “…SIDS governments often have to scale back already limited public investments in critical socio-economic development and environmental sustainability in order to meet direct disaster-related needs…”.

On January 25, 2019, the Jamaica Information Service said in an article, “Multi-billion dollar road improvement projects have been announced – a total of 66 projects undertaken across all parishes.” He also highlighted the development of Jamaica’s Logistics Hub Initiative (LHI) and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the LHI, as well as the Vernamfield development project in Clarendon, dubbed “Aerotropolis Jamaica”. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

However, throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, Jamaica has advanced large public sector companies that have destabilized many communities with bulldozing activities in their built and natural environments with the intensity and fury of a Category 5 hurricane. Subsequently, videos went viral showing flooding and landslides in Jamaican communities. Unfortunately, some are fatal.

Why is the breadfruit tree so “waterlogged” and I have to throw away half of it? …”. Understand the carer’s story of misfortune on the road as she is unable to honor her 8am shift, arriving instead at 9am after leaving St Thomas from 5am to Kingston, a trip that usually took an hour on Saturday mornings. the gleaner April 25 article “Some St Thomas commuters stranded as taxi drivers protest” read “Operators say contractors for the ongoing Southern Coastal Road project have dug up various sections of the main thoroughfare, leaving areas in a deplorable state…” In Portland, teachers and students are having severe difficulty getting to and from school now that face-to-face classes have resumed.

Pardo continues, “…as the pandemic has underscored and the climate crisis has long predicted, development pathways that ignore risk are neither sustainable nor inclusive…”. Are rural and urban communities informed of the risks before, during, or after the continued disruption of development due to highway construction, bauxite mining, high-rise residential construction, port dredging, etc. . ? Are these projects that affect all sectors and various locations across Jamaica inclusive, which means allowing for public consultation and engagement of affected citizens? Are rural and urban neighborhoods being bulldozed without warning? Are alternative arrangements made to lighten the burden on citizens? Why Healthshire [Hellshire] beach literally disappearing before our eyes inside Kingston Harbour, considered the seventh largest natural harbor in the world?


Community advice offered through local traditional knowledge is often overlooked. This includes pointing out that the hillside is unstable and susceptible to landslides, but roads are cut through these hills with insufficient retaining walls to limit landslides, thus causing loose earth to fall with buildings. Additionally, some road elevations will impede the natural flow of water into the port, but inadequate culverts cause back-ups and flooding in towns, villages and communities. They also point out that sinkholes are important features of Jamaica’s limestone karst landscape with its aquifer system, but mining takes place in the hills, causing predictable flash flooding in coastal towns.

With these disasters continually occurring in communities after a regular afternoon downpour of rain intensified by climate change and man-made actions, how, then, will Jamaica build resilience and l mitigation of hurricane preparedness? The United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are designed to help mitigate disasters and build resilience, but are we just talking about sustainability?

Apart from natural disasters, there are other disasters related to man-made events that require mitigation measures. The Jamaican Fire Department (JFB) and high-rise building developers should launch a public awareness campaign, urged the gleaner editorial of February 7, on safety issues of living in multi-storey apartments. Kudos to the JFB where the assistant commissioner responsible for fire prevention, Sean Martin, has indicated that he is ready to carry out increased regulatory oversight with increased inspections. “We have four hydronic platforms. These are two units that can be extended to a maximum of 115ft, but for safety reasons we only extend to 105ft. You’re talking about nine or 10 floors – in terms of capacity,” RJR News reported on February 12.


That same Gleaner The editorial also reported numerous regulatory violations of so many buildings, mostly exposed in court cases brought by neighboring residents against developers and regulators. He recommended that authorities “…should probably audit all buildings above a prescribed number of stories, built in, say, the last three to four years, to determine if they are up to code. …”.

Al Jazeera News reported on November 17, 2021: “Nigerian engineers say design of collapsed Lagos tower has been altered.” A 21-storey tower still under construction in the upscale Ikoyi district of Lagos has collapsed as it was originally only designed for six floors. Then other floors were added to the structure. At least 45 people, including the owner of the building, were killed. Investigations reveal “…clear indications of several project design changes, and the engineering and management of these changes appear to have been seriously inadequate…”. On May 2, another headline read: “Nigeria: Five dead after building collapse in Lagos”. This was a completed three-story residential building.

Is the development arena loaded with what might be called “Anansi” tactics? The stories of Anansi, small but quick-witted, outwitting larger adversaries “…had much symbolic appeal to early slaves, and after formal slavery ended, to black people still living in the poverty…”, remarks Ron Cherry in From Africa to Reggae: The Anansi Connection. Anansi’s dominant role in African origin mythology, Cherry implies, is that of a cunning and shrewd trickster who thrives on his intelligence.

In a brief conversation with Professor Carolyn Cooper, I shared my desire to borrow her term to describe built and natural environments to highlight the immediate need for appropriate mitigation and resilience strategies. Prof said its usage was quite appropriate, “…(adjective) messy, irregular…”, listed in the Jamaican English Dictionary as derived from West African languages ​​introduced during the period of slavery. Jamaica enters the 2022 hurricane season with the development of “chaka-chaka” affecting both built and natural environments. Therefore, with 60 years of independence, resilient strategies need to be put in place now.

Patricia Green, PhD, is a licensed architect and former director of the Caribbean School of Architecture in the Faculty of Built Environment, Jamaica University of Technology. Send your comments to