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Study: Bahamas the most ‘extreme’ case of low-lying coastal countries in Caribbean

A study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) revealed yesterday that more than 80 percent of the population in The Bahamas live in low-elevation coastal zones (LECZs), marking one of the “most extreme” cases among Caribbean small island developing states (SIDs).

The Bahamas was also listed as one of the top five SIDs to be “most affected” by sea-level rise.

The study, entitled ‘A Blue Urban Agenda: Adapting to Climate Change in the Coastal Cities of Caribbean and Pacific Small Developing States’, explores the impact of climate change on the coastal cities of Caribbean and Pacific SIDs.

“One out of five residents of Caribbean and Pacific SIDs live in low-elevation coastal zones. This is most extreme in The Bahamas and the republic of the Marshall Islands where over 80 percent of their populations live in LECZs,” the report states.

The report further states that by 2100, the cost of rising sea levels as a percentage of GDP would be highest among SIDs and enormous relative to the size of their economies.

The study found that 16.5 percent of the land area of Caribbean and Pacific SIDs lies less than ten meters above the sea level.

“The Bahamas (88.8 percent of land), Kiribati (84.5 percent), and the republic of the Marshall Islands (73.4 percent) are the most affected,” the report states.

The report also notes the importance of urbanization, stating that urban planning regulations and standards are a “critical component of adapting cities to climate change and strengthening their resiliency to impacts”.

In 33 years, the study projects that The Bahamas will triple its rate of urbanization.

“By 2050, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and The Bahamas will triple their rate of urbanization and St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago will experience a six-fold increase,” the report stated.

Also, an increasing amount of rural land in SIDs is being converted for urban development, the study cites.

“The level of urbanization in some Caribbean SIDs is high,” the report states.

“For instance, The Bahamas (79 percent), Trinidad and Tobago (72 percent), and Suriname (76 percent) are the three most urbanized countries in the region.”

However, the study points out that informal settlements have also become widespread in Caribbean cities such as Kingston (Jamaica), Port-of-Spain (Trinidad), Georgetown (Guyana), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic).

“Approximately ten million people in The Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago experience a housing deficit and building adequate housing for this population would cost about $18 billion,” the report cites.



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