By FARRAH JOHNSON
CANADIAN High Commissioner Laurie Peters held a Reconstruction and Resilience Forum Friday to introduce local contractors to a delegation of Clean-Tech and infrastructure companies that can assist with Hurricane Dorian restoration efforts.
Representatives from 12 Canadian firms with expertise in renewable energy, sustainable building and engineering gathered at the Melia Nassau Beach Hotel to share how their respective companies could help with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
“The idea for this event came to us immediately after Dorian,” Ms Peters said. “In fact, during Dorian we had numerous companies contacting us at the Canadian High Commission in Ottawa wanting to support The Bahamas during the storm (and) hoping to find ways to share expertise.”
Ms Peter explained that Canadian companies have been helping countries around the world address their climate challenges by assisting governments with developing strategies and plans to adapt to climate change.
She said the delegation she brought to The Bahamas was comprised of “established industry leaders and practitioners” who had “proven track records in delivering infrastructure across a range of asset classes.”
“I commend the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for your goal of making the Caribbean the first climate-smart region in the world and Canada wants to support this objective,” she said.
“Globally, Canada has pledged $2.65 billion to support developing countries enabling them to transition into low-carbon, sustainable and resilient economies.”
“However, while important, donor and government support alone is insufficient to address the challenges facing the region and we agree that the private sector is and must be an integral part of this effort.”
Carl Smith, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction also brought remarks on behalf of the division’s minister.
“Today, disruptions fueled in large measure by the forces of climate change have made crises the new normal for countries around the world,” he said.
“If it isn’t a hurricane, it’s an earthquake, wildfires or water shortages and Hurricane Dorian’s passage through the northern Bahama islands of Grand Bahama, Abaco and the Abaco Cays exacerbated the reality of some inadequacies that we have.”
According to Mr Smith, approximately 9,000 homes sustained damage on Abaco and Grand Bahama, affecting over 29,000 persons.
More than 10,000 students were also affected due to the suspension of primary and secondary school classes on the storm-battered islands.
“The Bahamas must confront the challenges resulting from climate change,” he said. “Frankly we have no other choice.”
“In doing so, we want to become a model for small island development states. We are pursuing innovative strategies for the building of public infrastructure...and also in building housing and businesses.”
Mr Smith said the government plans to focus on approaches that build relationships between residents and the private sector and that “channel investment opportunities into affected communities.”
“We want to employ tools and techniques to reduce risks for communities and rebuild resilient sustainable ecosystems,” he added.
“In order to protect the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco…from the vulnerabilities that initially exposed it to danger, the rebuilding processes must necessarily be a time for rethinking and ultimately for revitalisation.”
Mr Smith explained that the disaster reconstruction authority was formed to “coordinate the redevelopment responses to Hurricane Dorian” and create a “substantial coordinated plan” to repair and rebuild Abaco and Grand Bahama.
He said their primary goal is to design a “unified plan” that goes beyond restoration efforts into “long term resilience building activities.”
“We aim for The Bahamas to generate benefits through its resilience investments,” he said.
“This means the islands would not only be better off protected from future crises, but that they will also experience benefits in the good times from new economic activity, to better stewardship of the environment, to greater social cohesion among communities.”
Insisting that the way business is done in the Caribbean must change to adapt to the “growing intensity and frequency of weather systems, he added:
“We must now become a resilient people. That readiness and resilience comes from us preparing ourselves in how we build and how we keep around our environment.”
The companies present at the forum included Arcadis; Stantec; Tugliq Energy Corporation; Atco; Belvedere Place Development; Fourth State Energy; Group Ocean; Leigh Fisher; Lightweight Concrete Solutions, NEXII; Portable Electric and WSP Caribbean.
The Canadian corporations specialise in key areas of sustainable development, including micro-grids/off-grid developments, resilient power plants and global practices in the implementation of infrastructure, energy and reconstruction projects.