Several Participating States in the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) system have been placed under immediate drought watch or warning for 2016. The drought situation remains a major concern for many countries due to the below-normal rainfall recorded during the previous dry and wet seasons, which resulted in a number of countries experiencing water shortages in 2015.
Drought alerts have been issued by the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) for several countries up to March 2016. Drought warning has been issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, northern Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and northern Suriname. A drought watch has also been issued for Grenada while Haiti east-and southward has been noted for drought concern.
Drought outlook for the short-term (till March 2016) may result in a rise or persistent drought situation in Haiti east-and southward and especially in Antigua, Barbados and the Leeward islands. The longer-term outlook (beyond March 2016) will see a drier early part of the year in the Lesser Antilles due to a peak in the strength of El Niño. This may lead to drought concerns towards the end of the Caribbean dry season (i.e. May 31, 2016). A drought watch is therefore issued for the Bahamas and southwest Belize during this period.
The following is a summary of the drought situation provided by the CIMH:
2015: driest year on record for Eastern Caribbean and some other areas.
2015-2016 Drought: impacts similar to major drought of 2009-2010.
Very strong El Niño
El Niño subsiding around the start of the Hurricane Season.
Drought impacts will worsen until May and ease afterwards.
La Niña (the opposite of El Niño) might take over later in the year, resulting in higher flood risk. The national water management authorities continue to lead at the national level and the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA) is on alert and planning for future actions.
The Department of Emergency Management together with the Barbados Water Authority convened a stakeholders’ meeting early in February 2016. Contingency plans were developed and are being implemented, which includes water delivery and water storage containers.
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Relevant Authorities in the Virgin Islands have been monitoring the drought situation since 2015 and are implementing a number of initiatives. The public is kept updated through public information initiatives undertaken by the Water and Sewerage Department, Ministry of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Disaster Management, Public Information and Awareness Committee of the National Disaster Management Committee and others. A comprehensive multi-sectoral drought management programme has been developed and is currently being rolled out.
The National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA) in Grenada had discussions with the National Emergency Advisory Council (NEAC). A joint press Conference was held on Wednesday February 10th, to inform the public about the situation. Actions have been taken to increase public awareness by encouraging conservation and in recognition of ‘Fire Safety Month’, increased public awareness on fire safety, which is being led by the Fire Department and Coordinated by the Public Education and Information Committee of the NEAC. The relevant authorities involved are – NaDMA, NAWASA, Fore Department of the Royal Grenada Police Force, Meteorological Office, and Ministry of Agriculture, Land Use Division.
Guyana is experiencing extensive dry weather conditions across most of the country. This resulted in a shortage of water in coastal and interior locations, affecting agriculture activities in particular, while also giving rise to some extent of disruption of livelihoods. The Minister of State, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Joseph Harmon, has authorized the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) to lead the coordination and monitoring of the national response to the situation. Actions taken by the CDC include the activation of the 24 hours National Emergency Monitoring System (NEMS) to monitor all emergencies within the country; deployment of water tanks and water pumps and heading the Steering Committee established by the relevant Ministries of Government to guide the contingency planning. The CDC Volunteer Corps will be assisting the Ministry of Public Health with its public education and awareness campaign. The CDC continues to monitor and assess the vulnerable communities and conservancies which are affected by the prolonged dry season.
A committee comprising of the Office of Disaster Management (Civil Protection), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Office for Food Security and the Ministry of Interior has been created and an action plan is being prepared to share with the relevant authorities.
The Water Division and the Department of Agriculture are on alert and the Disaster Management Coordination Agency is monitoring.
St. Kitts and Nevis
The national system in St Kitts and Nevis implemented conservation measures since August 2015. These include an intensified water conservation campaign and rationing by the Water Services Department. All residents, government and private institutions are being urged to make the repair of leaks a priority. Businesses are required to implement a water management contingency plan which should involve monitoring of water meters. The Government is ensuring that critical institutions (hospitals, schools) are equipped with onsite standby water storage receptacles based on vulnerability. The public is being kept abreast via media campaigns and public service announcements. The NEMA continues to monitor the situation in collaboration with the Water Services Department and the Meteorological Services.
All Participating States were engaged early January 2016 in relation to the drought and water situation in each country. CDEMA convened a meeting of the Eastern Caribbean Development Partner Group on Disaster Management (ECDPGDM) working group in early February 2016. Other key stakeholders including Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association (CWW), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have been alerted. CDEMA will continue to coordinate with the Participating States on readiness for drought conditions and provide updates as necessary.
The drought outlook (by the end of March 2016) for the Caribbean is prepared by the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH).