The Government is crafting a hillside development manual, which will provide guidelines and set standards for the use of hillside lands for housing and other construction.
The aim is to significantly reduce the incidence of geo-hazards, improve the safety of developments as well as provide better environment/land management of hillsides.
Already, a draft manual has been prepared based on global best practices and local laws, and this will be taken to stakeholders through four regional workshops to be held at locations across the island during September and October.
"The purpose of the workshops is to ensure that stakeholders are attuned to all the information involved in the manual and to get feedback and comments on the information contained so we can fine tune the draft manual," informed Director of the Research and Marketing Unit in the Mines and Geology Division, Norman Harris at a recent JIS Think Tank.
"Once we get the buy-in, we’ll be able to take it to the public as a document, which has general approval and one which can then be used as policy for improving hillside development in Jamaica," he stated.
The first workshop will be on September 12 at the Manchester Parish Council in Mandeville; and second will be held on September 19 at the St. Mary Parish Council in Port Maria. Another event will be held on Tuesday, September 25, at the Montego Bay Civic Centre; and the final workshop will be held on October 3 at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management’s (ODPEM) Haining Road offices in Kingston.
Targeted are engineers, architects, planners, land surveyors and developers and stakeholders involved in the development approvals process, regulators and advisory agencies, such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the local planning authorities, Water Resources Authority (WRA), Ministry of Health, and National Works Agency (NWA).
ODPEM and NEPA, which are stakeholder partners in the development of the manual, stated that they are pleased to be involved in the process.
"This manual is actually going to revolutionise how developments are dealt with on the hillsides,” said Acting Director of NEPA’s Integrated Planning and Environment Division, Leonard Francis.
"It doesn’t only include Kingston and St. Andrew actually, it's the whole island. What you might see is a restriction in developments but an improvement in the quality of developments in these areas,” he stated.
Research Analyst in the Mitigation Planning and Research Division of ODPEM, Christopher Gayle, said the initiative is consistent with ODPEM's mandate of building disaster resilient communities and mainstreaming of risk reduction initiatives in development planning.
"While we have been fortunate so far not to have experienced any widespread slope failure resulting from these developments, we cannot ignore the fact that the vulnerability remains,” he noted.
The hillside development manual will identify the type of hillside slopes where development should be located and slope gradients on which development is not permissible. It will also include methods for slope and erosion protection as well as guidelines for lot sizes.