Philmore Mullin, the Director of the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), says the country has been making very slow progress in mitigating against the risks that are common to this region.
Accordingly, Mullin says that disaster risk-reduction needs to take a more central position in the country’s development process.
His message comes today, October 13, as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is being celebrated.
“We are not where most of us would like us to be, given that we are a small society with limited resources and DRR is quite expensive,” Mullin says.
However, he acknowledges that policies and legislation are in place, and there has been an effort by some agencies to reduce their risks: for example,the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA).
Mullin advises any new development to take risk-reduction measures into consideration, so that, over time, its level of exposure to hazards will be reduced.
The Government, meanwhile, says that vulnerable developing states need to be proactive and capitalise on every opportunity to reduce risks.
It adds that citizens and residents, the private sector, and members of civil society also have roles to play, since they all share the common space of Antigua and Barbuda.
Further, individuals should shoulder the responsibility of adhering to the guidelines that have been put in place for more resilient development, the Government says.
Tested and proven scientific interventions must be part of new developments if the country is to see a reduction in impact when hazards affect us, NODS insists.
But a former environment specialist says the Gaston Browne Administration needs to practice what it preaches.
He points out that the recently signed Western Imperial Special Economic Zone (WISEZ) agreement has left no room for oversight of its development. And so the agencies that would be responsible for ensuring compliance “have had their legs cut off.”
The Development Control Authority (DCA) and the Department of the Environment, he says, ought to be the watchdog on such large-scale developments, and in such sensitive areas.
And since the Browne Administration has rendered these agencies impotent, he says that Mullins’ warning will “not reach those who need to heed it the most.”
The consultant says it cannot be right that the Government is calling on home and business owners to do the right thing when, at the same time, it “has given the green light to these investors to develop however the heck they want.”