Climate Change Should Be Incorporated Into Flood Risk Management

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A call has been made for the probable impacts of climate change to be incorporated into flood risk assessments within the Caribbean.

Speaking at the opening of a regional training course on Flood Risk Management and Climate Change at the University of the West Indies, Director of Drainage, Keith Barrow, said for Barbados and other Small Island Developing States climate change will be associated with more extreme weather patterns, namely an increase in hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation.

"These increases in precipitation intensity and variability are projected to increase risks of flooding and drought in several areas. The frequency of heavy precipation events will very likely increase over most areas during the 21st century, with consequences for the risk of rain-generated floods," Mr. Barrow explained.

He added that climate change was also projected to affect the function and operation of existing water infrastructure – including hydropower plants, structural flood defences, drainage and irrigation systems – as well as water management practices.

"It is, therefore, essential that impacts of climate change are incorporated into flood risk assessments," the drainage official opined.

Noting that in 2003, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency identified flooding as the most commonly occurring disaster event in the region, the drainage spokesman revealed that flood damage in Barbados had been most significant within the south and west coast urban corridors, with locations in Bridgetown and Speightstown especially affected.

Cognisant of the fact that "protection from flooding is neither environmentally, economically nor technically feasible, nor viable," Mr. Barrow noted that in April of this year, Government established the Drainage Division within the Ministry of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage "to manage flood events, through mitigation of the issues leading up to and alleviation of those arising after the events".

According to him, Government’s commitment to support and strengthen the Drainage Division was directed towards "the improvement of the security of the society in the face of a real threat of dysfunction caused by flood events and the provision of a safer environment for our people and visitors".

He told the regional audience that some 10 flood events, with significant damage, were recorded in the last century; representing 33 percent of the major flood events over that same period, with an average of 200 nuisance floods, with minimal damage, being reported to the Division annually.

Some 20 Caribbean professionals with responsibilities for Flood Management are in Barbados attending the week-long training course, which ends this Friday, October 30. Organised by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies, it was made possible by a British High Commission grant.

cgaskin@barbados.gov.bb

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