Workshop course

NODS strengthens flood management measures with a two-day workshop

According to several participants, the workshop comes at an important time to boost confidence-building efforts (Photo courtesy Joanna Williams/NODS)

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By Orville Williams

[email protected]

The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) is working alongside the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to strengthen flood management measures in communities across Antigua and Barbuda.

The collaboration, via a two-day workshop, is aimed at community groups, government agencies and NGOs, with the aim of supporting resilience building in communities and mitigating the impact of flooding.

“We work with WMO to help people from our volunteer base, who are in the communities working with all the different community organizations, youth groups, sports groups [and] schools need to have a multi-stakeholder approach in terms of building resilience,” NODS Acting Director Sherrod James told Observer on the sidelines of yesterday’s workshop.

In addition to District Disaster Coordinators, other workshop participants include the Ministries of Agriculture and Public Works, Development Control Authority (DCA), Department of Environment, Medical Services of (EMS), the Meteorological Service and the National Solid Waste Management Authority. (NSWMA).

One of the most important elements of flood management is sustainable construction, especially in flood-prone areas, and this is certainly very important in Antigua and Barbuda today, with many construction projects ongoing development.

According to James, the workshop will address this issue and support people, “to be able to identify potential issues – looking towards mitigation – and ensuring that development happens in a sustainable way.”

The importance of sustainability was reiterated by St Mary’s North District Assistant Disaster Coordinator Cassandra Murray, who spoke of her experience in a particular flood-prone area.

“We have a problem where people are building in the Cashew Hill floodplain…and the problem is they haven’t built on stilts. So every time it rains, the water [runs] through the house.

“The way to mitigate [that situation] that is, if you know you are going to build in a flood plain, you are building high.

“Also, you need to keep the drains clean and keep the debris out of your yard because if there’s a flood, the debris will float around, block the drains and make the flood worse,” she explained.

And the issue of good drainage does not only affect residents of the regions of Antigua, but also of the sister island Barbuda – in the words of Daphne DeSouza of the Barbuda Council Disaster Office.

“We really don’t have much drainage, [but] what we have are chasms. So when we get heavy rain, [the water] is gradually receding due to the number of sinkholes we have.

“We’ve had some problems over the past couple of years, though, because people are building, living further from the village now and plugging the sinkholes, maybe for safety reasons. This can be dangerous, because then we won’t have a clear path for the water.

“What we’ve tried to do is clean up the [sinkholes] that people don’t live nearby, so the water can recede and just [flow out] overboard,” DeSouza told the Observer.

Discussion of these types of important challenges and solutions is a key part of the NODS/WMO workshop, which – according to participants – serves as an essential refresher course for many individuals and groups in attendance.

They insist that the opportunity to collaborate, share best practices and gain new knowledge is almost priceless, especially as we are in an already active hurricane season in the Atlantic.

“I would say [this workshop] is very important, because I now have another [understanding and] approach, not only from my point of view, but from that of the other members who are here.

“We all share our different experiences, so we all learn to do things differently to get the same results,” said St Claire Jeffers, assistant district disaster coordinator for St John’s City East.

The two-day Flood Management Awareness Workshop, taking place at the Hotel Training Institute of Antigua and Barbuda, continues today.

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