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Community Risk and Resilience to Climate Hazards and Extreme Events in the Turtle Region of Trinidad

  • Author(s): HOLMES, TISHA
  • Advisor(s): Hecht, Susanna B
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation examines the socio-spatial impacts of climate-related hazards and extreme weather events and associated responses in the Turtle Region of Trinidad & Tobago. The Turtle Region supports a growing eco-tourism industry centered on excursions to remote pristine beaches, hiking trails, waterfalls, and the annual migration of female Leatherback turtles to lay their eggs on natal beaches. The Turtle Region also experiences rapid rates of coastal erosion and severe weather related events which trigger frequent flooding and landslides during the rainy season and extended drought during the dry season.

The first phase of the study consisted of a qualitative hazard impact assessment which examined the spatial distribution of impacts of extreme events using secondary data, site observations and focus groups with members of community-based organizations. The second phase examined the nature of impact and responses of households in different communities which are exposed to hazards such as coastal erosion and flooding events. This portion of the data collection consisted of a household survey conducted in three Turtle villages. The final phase explored the institutional challenges and opportunities to build resilience to extreme events through interviews with national and local government officials as well as community leaders.

The socio-spatial impact analysis of the Turtle Region revealed three primary hazards – landslides, flooding and coastal erosion - which affect the region collectively however there are distinguishable patterns of exposure and impact mostly affected by the location of the village. A majority of households indicated that their livelihoods were not affected by extreme events. Contacting others and rebuilding were the primary coping strategies employed by households, while migration does not appear to be a prevalent strategy. A large portion of households, although seemingly able to cope, make no adjustments in preparation for future events or shocks indicating perhaps that repeated experiences and familiarity with a particular risk over time translates to a normalization and acceptance of the risk.

Recommendations for developing low cost, high impact community-based adaptation projects which would applicable in other vulnerable coastal communities include public infrastructure improvements and maintenance, land-use set backs and controls, hard and/or soft mitigation structures, community education and awareness programs, developing NGO capacity and expanding mandates and community-based disaster training and response teams.

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