Saint Lucia is highly vulnerable to a number of natural and man-made hazards with the potential for substantial loss of life and property damage. These hazard events include hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and fires, marine accidents involving oil and hazardous material spills as well as other man-made hazards. Additionally, there is growing concern about the vulnerability of Saint Lucia to the threat of climate change.
Experience from previous disasters has indicated that the potential impact of hazards is severe, particularly in terms of damage and losses. Whilst some hazard events are inevitable and cannot be prevented or controlled, long-term hazard mitigation measures can serve to reduce the impacts of these hazards and offer many potential sustained benefits over time. With respect to the predicted slow and cumulative deleterious effects of the hazards associated with climate change, adaptation measures have the potential to lessen those impacts thereby resulting in significant benefits.
In view of the deleterious impact of hazards, the Government of Saint Lucia has already undertaken several initiatives at the national, regional and international level to reduce the impacts of natural and man-made hazards. However, insufficient emphasis is being placed on multi-hazard mitigation that could minimise the impact and consequently, reduce the cost of future hazardous events. It is against this background that the National Hazard Mitigation Policy has been developed to express Government’s intention for the promotion of hazard mitigation in Saint Lucia.
Historically, hurricanes, storms and flooding have been the most likely hazards to affect Saint Lucia. Tropical Storm Debbie in 1994, resulted in losses over EC$230 million4. The Tropical Wave of October 1996 also incurred an estimated EC$12 million in damages to property and infrastructure particularly in Soufrière, Anse la Raye, Vieux Fort and Castries. Tropical Storm Lili-damage in 2002 was estimated at $20 million. Flooding has been of major concern particularly in low-lying areas as well as coastal villages and has resulted in the displacement of people and the destruction of property in communities.
By virtue of its geographical location, Saint Lucia is also susceptible to earthquake (seismic) hazards. Many of the tremors have been insignificant; however, strong shocks of magnitude 7.5 have been recorded. Also, the Soufriere Volcano has demonstrated its ability to produce violent and destructive eruptions causing serious damage to life and property. Since the last major eruption was over 200 years ago, one of such magnitude is considered less likely in the near future; however, small and moderate eruptions are more likely to occur.
The uncontrolled or untimely releases of water from the John Compton Dam due to weather conditions, natural and other causes, may lead to flash flooding in downstream areas and eventually destruction of property and loss of lives. The Caribbean is one of the two regions in the world that face the greatest risk to its marine environment from major oil spills. Marine traffic, especially oil tankers and cruise vessels in transit through coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea present the risk of oil pollution from marine accidents. Such pollution can threaten recreational
areas, sea birds, marine life, coastal installations and fisheries.
The history of Saint Lucia is replete with development marred by fires. These fires which may start by natural causes such as lightening or indiscriminate human actions often lead to significant damage to bush or grasslands and forests that cover extensive areas. In addition, the environment is at risk from terrestrial activities, which include the transportation, storage and use of hydrocarbons and other hazardous materials and waste. Potential pollution sources include garages, service stations and industrial installations,many of which lack suitable facilities to prevent uncontrolled discharge into the environment.
There is general consensus that the world is entering a stage of significant global climate change. Some of the hazard related issues that are likely to emerge from global climate change are sea level rise, increased frequency and severity of large storms or hurricane events as well as droughts. Sea level rise is likely to have dramatic adverse impacts, the most apparent being shoreline erosion and flooding. This has serious implications for Saint Lucia as a large proportion of development, including many towns, villages, the capital city, Castries and associated infrastructure is located in coastal areas. Droughts have resulted in the immediate as well as cumulative deterioration in agricultural productivity and the gradual loss of biodiversity. Further, droughts have adversely affected the quantity and quality of water supplies available in local communities and other productive sectors of the economy. Download the full policy below.