Natural Hazard Risk
The Commonwealth of Dominica is vulnerable to numerous natural hazards arising from meteorological and geophysical events. Over 90 percent of the population resides near the coastline, leaving infrastructure and people vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters. Considered the most geologically active island in the Caribbean, Dominica is also susceptible to volcanic hazards. Additionally, two of Dominica’s major economic drivers – agriculture and eco-tourism – are closely tied to the island’s natural environment, making the economy vulnerable to disasters.
Particularly damaging are events associated with excessive rainfall and strong winds. In August 2015, Tropical Storm Erika caused total damages and losses estimated at $483 million, equivalent to 90 percent of Dominica’s GDP. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, devastated the country and leading to 15 casualties. Damages and losses are estimated to be equivalent to 200 percent of GDP, with public infrastructure, electricity and telecom networks, housing and agriculture sectors suffering the greatest damages.
The government has taken significant steps to strengthen disaster risk management (DRM) in Dominica. The country’s DRM programs are governed by the Emergency Powers Act, established in 1951 and last revised in 1990. The country has a National Disaster Plan, last revised in 2006, which direct mitigation and response efforts. Disaster and climate risk management in Dominica is guided by additional policy and legislative efforts, including the National Climate Change Adaptation Policy (2002), National Hurricane Management Plan, Disaster Preparedness Plan for the Agriculture Sector (2006), and the Low-Carbon Climate-Resilient Strategy (2012). Additionally, with support from the World Bank, Dominica implemented an emergency recovery and DRM program from 2000-2006 to minimize damage caused by future natural disasters and reduce the potential disruption of economic activities.
Dominica has also made efforts to strengthen its fiscal resilience to natural hazard shocks. It is member of the multi-country risk-pooling Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) SPC, and received a payout of $19 million following the passage of Hurricane Maria.
To further advance its DRM agenda, government priorities include:
Building back better after Hurricane Maria (2017), with the aim of building the first climate resilient nation;
Strengthening fiscal resilience to natural hazard events;
Increasing the resilience of infrastructure; and,
Strengthening institutional capacity to better respond to disaster emergencies.
GFDRR has helped enable DRM efforts in Dominica since 2008 through country-specific and regional level grants to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. This support has focused on risk reduction efforts, as well as post-disaster recovery and reconstruction assistance.
Since 2012, GFDRR helped improve the government’s ability to collect, store, and share geospatial data through the development of a risk data management platform, DomiNode. GFDRR activities supported training on the use and sharing of data through the DomiNode platform. Due to these efforts, there is a greater understanding among ministries and better availability of information about landslide and flood hazards. The DomiNode platform was strengthened in 2014 with additional datasets that help increase climate change adaptation measures in development planning.
Since 2014, GFDRR activities helped revise an approach to assess shelters in Dominica that better account for vulnerability. In addition, GFDRR facilitated knowledge exchange related to shelter building standards, helping improve the government’s capacity to identify and retrofit vulnerable shelters, and design and construct resilient new structures. These efforts have informed additional activities, including the planning process for developing the World Bank’s $39.5 million Dominica Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project.
GFDRR activities have helped facilitate development of a risk-based transport Infrastructure Asset Management System in Dominica since 2016. These efforts will enable the government to systematically track infrastructure conditions, perform comprehensive and detailed vulnerability disaster assessments of the road network, and prepare an investment mitigation action plan.
Additionally, with GFDRR support, Dominica has participated in the regional Caribbean Risk Information Program. This led to the creation of flood and landslide hazard maps for the country, as well as the development of a handbook that support hazard and risk analyses for physical and infrastructure planning.
Since 2016, GFDRR has supported Dominica with training on prioritizing reconstruction investment decisions to support reconstructing critical infrastructure damaged by disaster. With support from the African Caribbean & Pacific (ACP)-European Union (EU) Natural Disaster Risk Reduction program, GFDRR has also facilitated engagements following major disaster events. This includes supporting the government to conduct a rapid damage and impact assessment following 2015’s Tropical Storm Erika, which led to support from several regional and international organizations for reconstruction of damaged infrastructure. Similarly, a rapid damage and loss assessment in response to Hurricane Maria, jointly conducted with the Caribbean Development Bank, the Easter Caribbean Central Bank, the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank, is informing a planned financial package of over $100 million for Dominica to provide immediate support to farmers, rebuild resilient public infrastructure, strengthen resilience, and help create financial buffers.
To assess upstream risk by debris flow, since 2017, GFDRR activities have helped identify vulnerable locations estimating upstream risks, including debris flow and landslide risks, using aerial imagery and soil sample data. These efforts aim to identify locations for construction of potential mitigation measures which will support Dominica to address the risks that have caused major infrastructure failures in the past and to develop an adequate mitigation plan.
GFDRR anticipates new and continued demand to:
• Carry out resilient recovery and reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Maria;
• Improve Dominica’s infrastructure management and maintenance planning capabilities;
• Strengthen disaster preparedness efforts and improve early warning systems; and,
• Establish a broad-based catastrophe risk financing and insurance strategy.