Physical Planning For Adaptation

By Kwame Emmanuel, Ph.D.

Government policies are undermining climate change resilience and are therefore part of the problem.  Major issues are presented below.

  1. A fundamental problem is the disconnect between political agendas and climate change time-lines.  Politicians in developing countries are primarily concerned with short to medium term goals related to infrastructure and employment, and therefore have difficult considering issues, which have not fully manifested as yet, for example, sea level rise.
  2. The development control regime is encouraging illegal developments by enforcing a cumbersome and time-consuming process for formal developments.
  3. Another threat relates to the Government’s economic policy, which seeks to secure employment at the expense of environmental conservation and resilience.  Case in point is the construction and operation of large hotels on the north coast, which provide employment for Jamaicans but negatively impact coastal areas.  These hotels will eventually be threatened by sea level rise and storm surge.
  4. The Government of Jamaica is also currently pursuing a housing policy, which seeks to increase the number of houses for low income earners.  One possible policy conflict is related to the location of these high density housing developments.  They may either be placed in vulnerable or environmentally sensitive areas because of the low cost of land; or the development may enhance the vulnerability of adjoining areas.  In addition, climate resilience may not be considered in the design of the housing developments and units.  There are also environmental concerns related to other infrastructural projects such as the construction of the north-south highway.  Concerns include possible landslide events triggered by heavy rainfall and the subsequent collapse of the highway [1].
  5. Another issue is the autonomy of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Ministry of Housing facilitated by their respective Acts.  These Acts have influenced the inconsistency of development standards and the exploitation of loopholes in the regulatory framework.
  6. Finally, there is a lack of identification, quantification and coordination of future land use requirements and enforcement of planning regulations.  This has resulted in formal and informal developments in high risk areas and the degradation of the natural environment, which provides regulatory services such as flood control and coastal protection.