KINGSTON, Jamaica — Prime Minister Andrew Holness, during a tour of flood-affected parishes today, said a master drainage plan has been developed for Jamaica.Holness, who was speaking during a stop in Guys Hill, St Catherine, said the implementation of the plan will now have to be fast tracked given the effects of torrential rains that have lashed the island since Saturday.

However, the prime minister noted that drainage is only one factor that led to the widespread flooding. Another issue, which he said the Government must tackle, is informal housing settlement, especially on gully banks.

“It is instructive that the areas which we have toured so far are areas that are close to the riverbank and greater effort should be taken to ensure that the rules are enforced as it regards to where people are allowed to live and the government has to be far more proactive in ensuring that people do not settle in areas where we already know that they are at potential risk and vulnerable,” he said.

Holness said people also have to make conscious decisions about where they settle and consider factors such as climate and weather events, erosion, flooding, and hurricanes.

“These are things that should be factored into our settlement decisions and I want to appeal to Jamaicans, we don’t have to live on the gully banks, we don’t have to live in areas that are flood prone or on the flood plains so we will have to take an almost revolutionary view as to how we settle our lands in Jamaica and provide housings and where we provide those housing solutions.”

The prime minister added: “informal settlements, haphazard settlements, those things cannot be allowed to continue in our future, the cost of it is just too much and it’s not just the cost in the infrastructure [and] the cost in housing but it is the cost in lives”.

He said the Government is working on policy to shape a proactive approach to dealing with the issue.

Holness returned to the island last night from an official visit to the Dominican Republic. He was originally scheduled to return today, but cut short his visit as a result of the heavy rains that have impacted the island.

Jamaica has, since Saturday evening, been experiencing persistent heavy rainfall, which has severely affected sections of St Elizabeth, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, Westmorland, St Mary, Portland and St Ann.

There have been severe infrastructural and agricultural damage, dislocation and major inconvenience, especially for students who are sitting exit secondary examinations.