The eastern Caribbean: cooperation in action Campaign to raise awareness of climate risks in St. Lucia
Climate change is hitting the small island states in the eastern Caribbean especially hard. The social and economic consequences of extreme weather events in the OECS region (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) are devastating, as Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 showed. However, the threat is not just from hurricanes; increasingly heavy rainfall that causes rivers to overflow their banks, leading to flooding and mudslides, is also a threat for local communities.
That is the case for Anse-la-Raye on St. Lucia, an island state in the Caribbean. This community of 7,000 inhabitants lies in a valley between two rivers. Heavy rain keeps causing floods in the area and the rivers cut off any escape routes to the safety of the mountains.
Some inhabitants responded to a state initiative and relocated to the surrounding mountains. However, many people have remained where they are – some of them because they do not want to leave their social environment, but also some of them because they are not aware of the dangers.
Raising awareness about the dangers and consequences of natural disasters
The German government has commissioned (External link) the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to support a series of awareness-raising campaigns by the OECS Commission. The awareness-raising is a two-way street: the Commission organises “town hall” meetings where both local residents and local government representatives talk about their experiences and their concerns. The Commission also uses the meetings to share information not only about the dangers that the town’s population faces, but also about the possible need to relocate.
Challenges with regard to relocation measures
Whilst many local people are indeed willing to relocate, there is a lack of financial support for them. The little town of Anse-la-Raye is in one of the poorest regions of St. Lucia and, according to Stephen Griffith, the chair of the local disaster committee, not everyone living there is able to buy one of the plots of land made available by the government.
Protecting parts of the town against flooding
The heavy pollution of the river bed as a result of the flooding in Anse-la-Raye often means that the flood water is either unable to flow away at all or it flows away more slowly. The German development cooperation activities have therefore included dredging the two rivers that flow through the community. Meanwhile, the restoration of the mangroves near the town serves a dual purpose by creating natural flood plains that protect the town from flooding and offering opportunities for economic development in the tourism sector.