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Blades of Grass

Impact of Hurricane Maria

Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS) released a disaster profile detailing the impact of Hurricane Maria on Dominica in 2018, giving a background on the level of destruction that it inflicted. A category 5 hurricane, Maria, made its first landfall on the southwest of the island at night on September 17, 2017. Many locals described this hurricane as the worst one they had ever experienced — even worse than Hurricane David. The total damage estimates amounted to 224% of Dominica's GDP, with approximately 80% of the population affected. Devastation is an understatement regarding the force of nature inflicted on the island. Maria permanently left a deep wound on those who survived it.

Damage of Building After Hurricane Maria 2017
Damage near a town
Street view of damaged homes after the hurricane
Firemen working to clean up debris in dowtown Roseau
Birds eye view of a forest damaged by the hurricane
Trees stripped of their vegetation.

Shortly after the hurricane, the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica released an executive summary on the post-disaster needs assessment.  Due to the disaster, Dominica experienced a total loss of  $94.9 million EC (Eastern Caribbean currency) in income across all industries. The disaster struck the agriculture and tourism industries significantly. The Poverty Headcount Ratio nearly doubled, from 28.8% to 42.8%. 

 

Ninenty Percent of the housing sector experienced damage: 15% were destroyed and 75% incurred different levels of partial damage. Only 10% of the housing sector were unaffected. Schools that experienced little or no damage became shelters for victims. Overall, the school year for students was interrupted until repairs were complete. Approximately 83% of schools on the island reported some damage, with 41% of the educational facilities suffering significant damage and requiring reconstruction.

Figure 9 Estimated Damages, Loss, and Needs. Sourced from Dominica Executive Summary Post-Hurricane 2017

Table documenting the monetary impact of Hurricane Maria on Dominica's different sectors of their economy

The commerce industry consists of many small businesses with vendors or that are operated from homes. Damages are reflected mainly in the housing sector, and from vendors whose small shops sustained damages and loss of supplies. Consumers in a national crisis must re-prioritize their purchasing decisions, affecting the commerce sector's consumption levels.

The once main hospital on the island, Princess Margaret in Roseau, experienced severe damage, with 15% of the buildings destroyed and only 53% functioning. Much of the equipment in the hospital, such as fluoroscopy, portable x-rays, and all blood bank equipment, was lost in the aftermath. Satellite clinics across the island also experienced damage.

 

A substantial amount of debris covered many roads and bridges — some affected by landslides or embankment failures. Six major bridges were seriously damaged and closed, affecting people's ability to travel to other parts of the island.

 

People's work lives drastically changed because of the hurricane. The agriculture industry was especially vulnerable since primarily comprises small family farms and subsistence-based farming, where farmers will sell their limited excess. The crop sector damage ranged from 80 to 100%, with the livestock damage experiencing significant damage as well (45% of cattle, 65% of pigs, and 90% of chickens).

 

Essential water, sanitation, and electricity services suffered from water, debris, and wind damage. Water supply areas, production or distribution pipelines, and water intake systems were impaired by debris and strong winds, or washed away. The damage to the Roseau wastewater treatment plant affected 5,190 people; 75% of the electricity network was down due to extensive damage to the transformers. The hydropower plant at Padu was damaged by 3 to 4 feet of mud and debris filling the powerhouse. The water pipeline feeding the three hydropower plant stations from Freshwater Lake had severe damage due to landslides and rock debris impacts. 

Painting by Sarama Rolle depciting hope in the midst of Hurricane Maria

"There's Always Hope" by Sarama Rolle

The Establishment of the Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD)

The ravaging effects of Hurricane Maria demonstrated just how vulnerable Dominica is, and highlighted many gaps in infrastructure and social assistance. Prime Minister Skerrit pledged Dominica to become the first climate-resilient country in the world on September 23, 2017. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions defines climate resilience as "the ability to prepare, recover from, and adapt to these (climate change) impacts" (2019). To fulfill this promise to its people, Dominica passed a Climate Resilient Act in 2018 and launched the Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD) on March 9, 2018, to help fulfill these goals.

The word resilience can be used in many contexts and has been thrown around loosely in a lot of global conversations on climate change. How CREAD chooses to define the term and the contexts for it to be used in dictates Dominica's pursuit of minimizing its climate risk vulnerability. While interacting the CREAD staff, I had the chance to ask the team the difficult question of what resilience means to each of them and here are their responses.

Choose one word that best describes what resilience means to you? 

A word collage of how people define climate resilience in their own terms with one word

It is important to note that resilience is not a cheap goal! Achieving resilience requires an insitutional approach to integrate resilience targets into the framework of government ministries and agencies. The Climate Resilience Recovery Plan estimated  the cost for Dominica to become Climate Resilient by 2030 will EC 8.2 to 9.8 billion. The expected financial gap between continued revenue streams and capital expenditures is EC 2.5 2.5 to 3.5 billion. 

On behalf of the government and international donors, CREAD executes projects by offering assistance in designing and delivering the projects. CREAD also povides support and technical assistance to government ministries and agencies to assist the institutionalization of the resilience agenda. However since CREAD is not a permanent agency, it will be dissolved by the end of year 2023. Before its dissolution, the team seeks to carry on its resileince agendas by training and assiting ministries to continue the national progress towards becoming climate-resilient.  

Infographic of the three pillars of CREAD
Infographic of CREAD's 6 different target areas

To outline CREAD's mission of developing Dominica's institutional framework towards climate resilience, they created the Climate Resilience Recovery Plan (CRRP) from 2020 to 2030. The CRRP outlines projects that promote Dominica's development to become climate resilient. To promote resilience, the CRRP discusses projects it intends to carry out and also how CREAD will assist Government ministries to implement climate-resilient policies and recovery projects. 

CREAD's Climate Resilience Targets by 2030

You can read the full CRPP here.

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