In light of the continuing developing situation in Japan after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island last Friday; the Prime Minister would like to reassure the country that significant headway is being made into our own disaster risk reduction.
The prime minister was making reference to the recent bathymetric survey (mapping of the sea floor) that took place in the coastal waters of Sint Maarten back in February.
The survey is part of a proactive disaster management approach, "Hazard and Vulnerability Assessment Project," being taken by disaster management organizations within the region with assistance from a number of development organizations.
The aim is to examine hazards posed by inland and coastal flooding across the country. The hazards under consideration involve flash floods, coastal storm surges and tsunamis. The information derived from the survey and other research that has been done will lead to the development of a Disaster Plan as well as an early warning system.
All of this is part of the Regional Risk Reduction Initiative (R3I) project for the Dutch Caribbean and United Kingdom overseas territories.
The hydrological institute UNESCO-IHE in Delft, The Netherlands has been working on projects on Sint Maarten in the past namely, the storm water modeling for the Cul-de-Sac basin which was carried out in 2005-2006. Currently work is being executed on a similar water modeling project for the Dutch-French Quarter basin.
European Union (EU) funding has been made available for several regional projects in the field of disaster management and risk reduction.
The project is being coordinated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) office in Barbados. One of the projects is Early Warning Systems of which Sint Maarten is a beneficiary. The bathymetric survey is one of the elements of this particular project.
"For example, a high level of disaster risk awareness, preparedness and planning, helped prevent causalities when Tropical Cyclone Yasi struck North-east Australia. Sint Maarten has been investing over the years in its capacity to respond to disasters. With respect to hurricanes, we have a good system in place which has reduced vulnerability and minimized exposure to risk. Hurricanes in the past especially Luis has offered the country lessons on resilience.
"Disaster risk reduction is an on-going process and we have much to learn about flash floods, coastal storm surges and tsunamis and the maximum impacts that they can have on our infrastructure and our country’s socio-economic wellbeing.
"I subscribe to the principle of building a resilient nation and communities as an essential condition for sustainable development. I want to reassure the country that the developing situation in Japan is indeed unsettling, but in this part of the world, our country is laying the groundwork to develop a resilient early warning system," Hon. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams pointed out on Sunday.
Disaster management falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of General Affairs and the prime minister.