Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project
Implemented by the Organization of American States
Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment
for the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Caribbean Regional Program


Landslide Hazard Mitigation and Loss-reduction
for the Kingston Jamaica Metropolitan Area

Report on a Three-Day Technical Workshop, 26-28 January 1999

This workshop was organized by the Unit for Disaster Studies of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, to present the methodology, findings and recommendations to public and private sector users of the data and maps prepared for the Kingston Jamaica metropolitan area landslide hazard assessment, which was funded by the USAID/OAS Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP).

By Rafi Ahmad, Unit of Disaster Studies, UWI Mona

A 3-day workshop was organized 26-28 January 1999 in Kingston by the Unit for Disaster Studies of the University of the West Indies to communicate the results of Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) Landslide Hazard Project to the various interest groups who are the potential users of landslide data and hazard maps. The purpose of this interactive workshop was to demonstrate to all concerned the magnitude of landslides and related problems in the Kingston area, how they affect the society both directly and indirectly, the constraints on land use, the benefits of mitigation, and how to avoid/reduce present and future landslides.

As far as we are aware, a systematic approach to landslide loss-reduction is currently not available in many of the Caribbean islands. This is the first workshop of its kind in the region as it brings together diverse and potential users of landslide information, with the discussions likely to benefit all. This is the mandate of CDMP Kingston Multi-Hazard Assessment Project. Although this workshop focussed on the landslide hazard in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, the results and experiences are applicable to the management of landslides in any tropical island state.

A diverse group of individuals and agencies were invited to the workshop. These included, citizens, teachers, planners, developers, insurers, disaster managers, watershed engineers, the disciplines of forestry, agriculture and soils, civil engineers, managers of public utilities including electricity, water, roads, communications, members of relief and rescue operation teams, journalists, social scientists, and earth scientists.

Some 60 persons attended the workshop. These represented 20 governmental and non-governmental agencies/ departments in Jamaica. However, since the timing of the workshop coincided with an important Government meeting, several key agencies and sectors that would have directly benefited from the proceedings were unable to participate. Since a majority of participants were not earth scientists, the workshop was aimed at enabling the participants in appreciating landslide hazard and risk at different levels including individual houses, inter-relationship of landslides with rainfall and earthquakes, history of landslides and how they influence urban settlements, field visit to recognize landslides and the hazards they create, how hazard maps were prepared, guidelines for using landslide hazard maps, techniques of loss reduction, land use planning in reducing losses, and answers to frequently asked questions about landslides.

The faculty comprised experts in the subject and included geologists, engineers, disaster managers, environmental scientists, and planners:

  1. Dr. David Howell ( US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Ca., USA)
  2. Mr. Bill Cotton ( Cotton, Shires and Associates, Inc., San Francisco, Ca., USA)
  3. Dr. Jim McCalpin ( GEO-HAZ Consulting, Inc., Estes Park, Co., USA)
  4. Mr. Jerry DeGraff (US Forest Service, Fresno, Ca., USA)
  5. Mr. Rafi Ahmad (Unit for Disaster Studies, Dept. of Geography and Geology, UWI, Mona)
  6. Mrs. Blossom Samuels, Govt. Town Planner, Town Planning Department, Govt. of Jamaica
  7. Mr. Franklyn McDonald, Executive Director, Natural Resources Conservation Authority, Govt. of Jamaica
  8. Mr. Carlton Hay (Hay Engineering Consultants, Kingston).

The workshop programme was arranged as follows, focussing on landslides and landslide hazard in the Kingston area.

26th January 1999

Session I—Introduction to KMA Landslide Project.
Session II—Landslide identification, mapping, and preparation of hazard maps using GIS.
Session III—Response to Landslides; using landslide information in decision-making process, landslide mitigation using engineering solutions.

27th January 1999

Session IV—Study of landslides in field, the hazard they create, response, and landslide damage in selected areas of KMA. A field guide was provided.

28th January 1999

Session V—Response to landslide hazard in KMA. This session included lectures and discussions on significance of landslides in Jamaica, Government Town Planner’s perspective of the importance and adequacy of information on natural hazards especially landslides, development and land use in Jamaica and KMA, practice of geotechnical engineering in Jamaica in relation to slope stability, watershed management, use of landslide hazard information in community planning, and an analysis of response to landslides and landslide hazard in Jamaica by the workshop participants. This analysis is the subject of a manuscript: Interest in landslide hazard information-parallels between Kingston, Jamaica and the San Francisco Bay Region by D.Howell, Earl E. Brabb, and Rafi Ahmad. This manuscript records the perception, needs and recommendations of the workshop participants.

The workshop closed with an open discussion among the participants and it was generally agreed that the landslide data and hazard maps prepared are adequate and reflect the seriousness of the hazard due to landslides in the Kingston area.

The Unit for Disaster Studies has been asked to continuously monitor the landslide activity, to try and keep the maps updated, to provide information on scales of 1:5k and 1:10K, to communicate the information to as many user agencies as possible, to guide the users of information, and to mount an intensive programme of public education.

The Town Planning Department, Govt. of Jamaica, has recognized the importance of landslide hazard information in the planning process and in making decisions on land use in Kingston area. They require detailed information on KMA landslides which shall be provided to them by the Unit for Disaster Studies.

The Unit for Disaster Studies acknowledges the help and support of the workshop faculty comprising David Howell, Bill Cotton, Jerry DeGraff, Jim McCalpin, Blossom Samuels, Carlton Hey, and Franklyn McDonald. This workshop would not have been possible without their valued inputs. Mrs. Ruby Richards, Debbie and Ian very ably and competently handled the logistics, field trip, registration and administrative matters. We are grateful to them. CDMP (USAID/OAS), Jennifer Worrell and Steven Stichter are thanked for their never-ending support to the Landslide Project. We acknowledge the support of various individuals and government agencies in allowing their staff to participate in the workshop. The participants were extremely cooperative and supportive and we are grateful to them for making the workshop a success.

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