The small Caribbean island nation of Dominica is among the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to devastating, extreme weather events. In 2017, Hurricane Maria caused widespread destruction on the island, damaging or destroying 95% of Dominica’s housing stock.
In response, Dominica’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, announced plans for the country to become the world’s first “climate resilient nation.”
Now, six years later, Dominica has made several sweeping changes that it hopes will protect against the ever-worsening extreme weather events that are becoming more commonplace due to the effects of human-caused pollution.
One important aspect of this climate resilience has been Dominica’s new Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP), which was actually started three years before Hurricane Maria in 2014.
The DVRP has expanded the country’s storm-tracking capabilities from its two airports to 44 automatic weather stations, rain gauges, and water level sensors all over the island. This more precise tracking allows officials to make better decisions around risk reduction and emergency response.
Dominica has also upgraded its water distribution systems, as access to clean water was a big issue after Hurricane Maria.
Another step that Dominica has taken to protect against climate disasters is to invest in protecting the country’s natural plant life.
“About two thirds of Dominica is covered in natural vegetation and forest,” wrote Emily Wilkinson, an advisor to Dominica’s climate resilience agency and the producer of a documentary on the project called “Climate Blueprint: Dominica.” “These plants, and the coral reefs surrounding the island, provide a critical buffer against winds and waves and so need to be protected.”
Finally, Dominica has committed to learning from its indigenous populations, which have farming practices that combine crop diversification with planting methods that help to stabilize slopes, preventing landslides.
Still, even with all those measures, the country remains vulnerable to future extreme weather events, which are only growing in intensity.
“Dominica is on the front line,” Donalson Frederick, who helped manage the government response to Hurricane Maria, told NPR. “Climate change is not something that is happening tomorrow. It’s happening now and it’s affecting our livelihood now.”
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