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Residents of the East End/Long Look Community have been fully briefed on the Smart Communities initiative to be implemented throughout the Territory.
Chairman of the Project Steering Committee, Mr. Ryan Geluk told residents at a community meeting last week that the Smart Communities initiative was devised to bring groups, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and communities working together in a collaborative fashion to make communities safer, greener and smarter in the face of disasters.
Mr. Geluk said, “Climate change is real and the evidence is irrefutable. We have seen evidence of it in the events of 2017 and already in 2018 with changing rainfall patterns, rising temperatures leading to more powerful hurricanes and coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels.”
The chairman explained that the project is expected to empower communities, individuals and businesses to “own” their community disaster risk reduction initiatives and is being implemented in three communities namely Jost van Dyke through the Jost van Dyke Preservation Society; Sea Cows Bay through the BVI Red Cross and East End/Long Look through Rotary BVI. The Lions Club of Tortola and ADRA are supporting the implementation of activities in all three communities.
Mr. Geluk explained that there are a number of activities planned for the East End/Long Look Community including emergency response training sessions, business continuity planning training, and mangrove restoration and replanting.
“Rotary BVI will support these and will plan and implement others including a community wide clean-up initiative planned for the last quarter of the year,” he added.
Data Management Officer with the Smart Communities Project, Ms. Kristi Creque presented the findings of a community engagement survey conducted in August.
She explained that the survey was administered by a group of ten student enumerators guided by the Caribbean Development Bank’s Community Development Specialist, along with representatives of the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and the Social Development Department.
Ms. Creque said, “The results show when the communities prefer to be engaged and where they would likely go to receive information. The results are important because they help to guide the implementation phase of the project and enhance the decision-making processes. Community engagement is a key part in the relationship between the Non-Government Organisations, the Government and the community.”
The DDM is also planning a number of other activities to complement the project in an effort to get closer to achieving the Smart Communities standards. A new and improved siren unit was replaced and tested on the rooftop of the Police Station in the East End/Long Look districts and weather stations are now in place at Hodges Creek and Balsalm Ghut. Plans are also in place to add weather stations and essential warning and notification equipment at the fire station to have it developed into a community level satellite Emergency Operations Centre.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development is finalising the contractual details to carry out works on the East End/Long Look Community Centre. In addition, new emergency signage will be placed throughout the communities. The DDM also recently completed a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fat Hog's Bay where 31 persons were certified as CERT members. This will help to boost the emergency response capabilities in the community.
The Smart Communities model was developed by the DDM in 2014 and is being driven by the Virgin Islands Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy and Programming Framework which was approved by Cabinet in 2014. The Establishing Flood Resilient SMART Communities through NGO Partnerships Project is being financed through a grant approved by the Caribbean Development Bank under its Caribbean Disaster Risk Reduction Fund in the amount of six hundred and forty-nine thousand, five hundred and fifty dollars ($649,550.00) and the project activities are expected to be completed by June of 2019.