Natural Hazard Risk
Saint Lucia, a small Windward Island in the Eastern Caribbean, is exposed to several natural hazards, including hurricanes, landslides, earthquakes, flooding, and volcanic eruptions. The risk from these hazards is exacerbated by the Caribbean’s natural weather patterns of heavy rain and frequent hurricanes, which have become increasingly intense with climate change. With a terrain largely consisting of mountains and steep slopes, the country’s population and economic activity are mostly concentrated along low-lying coastal areas that have inadequate drainage or infrastructure to withstand the impacts of flooding and storm surge. Critical public infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, water supply systems, and health and education facilities, remain vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Additionally, critical sectors of Saint Lucia’s economy include agriculture and tourism, both of which are heavily dependent on good weather and are vulnerable to climate-related hazards. In October 2010, Hurricane Tomas produced intensely excessive rainfall and triggered widespread flooding and landslides, which resulted in damages and losses equivalent to more than 40 percent of Saint Lucia’s 2010 GDP. In December 2013, a tropical trough system produced excessively heavy rainfall in Saint Lucia resulting in rapid and intense flooding, as well as landslides throughout the country. Estimated damages and losses were equivalent to roughly 8 percent of the country’s GDP. More recently,
The Government of Saint Lucia has taken important steps to measurably reduce disaster and climate risk, as laid out in its national disaster reduction program, Vision 2030. Established in 2000, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) is responsible for preparing the country for natural hazard events and coordinating post-disaster response at local, regional, and international levels. The Disaster Management Act was enacted in 2006 and is the country’s legislative framework for disaster risk management (DRM). The Hazard Mitigation Policy, also signed in 2006, puts a focus on reducing risk and building the nation’s resilience to hazard impacts. Strengthening disaster resilience is a priority and in the 2018 budget speech the prime minister emphasized the importance of strengthening DRM across sectors, particularly housing, and establishing comprehensive disaster risk financing mechanisms.
Saint Lucia is a member of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), a regional risk-pooling mechanism for Caribbean countries to provide immediate liquidity shortly after a devastating hurricane, earthquake and / or excess rainfall event. In 2016, CCRIF completed payments totaling roughly $30 million to four member countries that were affected by Hurricane Matthew, including Saint Lucia.
To further advance its disaster and climate resilience agenda, the Government of Saint Lucia is prioritizing:
- Strengthening public institutions to efficiently execute a comprehensive and multi-sectoral nationwide disaster risk reduction program, including a disaster risk financing strategy;
- Introducing legal and policy reforms to increase climate and disaster resilience in priority sectors;
- Implementing a more diverse set of risk finance instruments to withstand the fiscal shocks associated with natural hazard events;
- Ensuring the public is educated about natural hazards, including preventive and mitigation measures; and,
- Directing resources toward priority sectors highly vulnerable to the impacts of disasters and climate change, such as transport, education and health.
GFDRR’s support for disaster and climate resilience in Saint Lucia began at a regional level in 2008. Key areas of initial focus included enhancing the country’s early warning systems, increasing fiscal resilience to disasters, and generating a risk reduction framework to help the government make risk data-informed investment decisions.
Since 2016, GFDRR has been financing technical assistance meant to measurably reduce disaster risk of specific public infrastructure in Saint Lucia. These activities helped create an inventory of existing public infrastructure and is assessing the investment needs for increasing resilience.
Beginning in 2015, through support from the African Caribbean Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program, the Caribbean Disaster Risk Financing Technical Assistance Program works with Ministries of Finance in 4 Caribbean countries, including Saint Lucia, to develop recommendations for cost-effective disaster risk financing strategies to increase financial resilience to natural disasters. Support for activities in Saint Lucia include strengthening a domestic risk insurance framework and integrating disaster risk into a comprehensive risk management strategy.
Since 2014, through its Small Island States Resilience Initiative (SISRI), GFDRR supported activities in Saint Lucia that facilitated access to risk information and financing to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change impacts. Additionally, in 2014, GFDRR supported the government in assessing the damages and losses from the December 2013 floods. Economic losses was estimated at nearly $100 million, equivalent to over 8 percent of the country's 2013 GDP. The assessment has informed the design of the $76 million Saint Lucia Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) financed by the World Bank, which aims to increase long-term disaster and climate resilience in Saint Lucia by addressing disaster risks associated with hydro-meteorological events. Key components of the project include: (a) investments in risk reduction and adaptation in priority infrastructure, (b) capacity building to improve assessment and application of disaster and climate risk information in decision-making, (c) climate adaptation finance for households and businesses, and (d) contingent emergency response.
Following the passage of a series of floods that mainly impacted Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines in 2013, under the ACP-EU NDRR Program, GFDRR provided technical assistance to strengthen institutional capacity amongst Caribbean public servants for damage assessment, recovery planning, and implementation of recovery strategies. Activities included reviewing the current damage assessment process in Saint Lucia and other Eastern Caribbean countries and training in post-disaster needs assessment methodologies.
Earlier grant activities by GFDRR in 2008 provided regional support to produce detailed risk maps for Caribbean countries, including Saint Lucia. Activities contributed to developing a risk modeling platform, conducting vulnerability identification and assessment, and training national stakeholders how to utilize the tools. This supported the development of comprehensive risk management strategies through access to quality disaster risk information.
Going forward, GFDRR anticipates further demand to support Saint Lucia in areas including:
- Enhancing the disaster and climate resilience of urban areas;
- Developing resilient housing standards;
- Mainstreaming DRM into sector policies; and,
- Developing and operationalizing a comprehensive disaster risk financing strategy.