By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES must combine “hard infrastructure” with increasing the “resilience” of the natural environment to combat natural disasters, a Bahamian engineer said yesterday.
Carlos Palacious, director of operations for Caribbean Coastal Services, told the Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF): “We often times focus on creating the hard infrastructure, such as sea walls, when we should also focus on increasing the resilience in our natural environment. We need to look at replanting areas that have been devastated and reforesting areas that can help reduce inland flooding.
“We live in what is an ever-changing and evolving climate. We all know of the impact of the hurricane seasons. What we need to understand is the sensitivity and the connection that we have as people, and as a region, and how we are connected to the environment.
“One major take-home from the season is the value of our ecosystem services. If we allow tourism-based developments, which often get major subsidies and which are sometimes able to circumvent best rules and practices, then we have to look at what long-term impact would that have.”
Mr Palacious added that his firm has done coastal studies in seven Caribbean countries this year, and found similar results of environmental degradation. “As a result of long-term damage we are seeing the consequences when we have these storms,” said Mr Palacious.
“As we talk abut advancing and adapting, we have to talk about a cultural shift and how we function as a region.” Mr Palacious said that just as preparations are made for “back-to-school”, similar planning should be made for the hurricane season. He also pointed to the need for programmes to ensure early warning systems and zoning of highly vulnerable areas or areas prone to flooding.