July 9, 20151390Views

Rainfall totals for the British Virgin Islands for the
first half of 2015 are significantly low in comparison to previous years,
resulting in substantial impact to farming grounds.

Rainfall statistics accumulated by the Department of
Disaster Management (DDM) for the period January to June reveal a total of only
3.5 inches of rainfall, with the majority occurring in January and February. Comparing
the same period in 2014, rainfall totals were at 13.5 inches.

This significant reduction in precipitation has
resulted in a drought watch being issued for the BVI. A drought watch means
that a drought is possible and governments are encouraged to take action to implement
drought management plans which include the protection of water sources,
implementation of conservation practices and monitoring and repair of
infrastructure to minimise loss as a result of leakage.

The prolonged dry period is not unique to the BVI as
records indicate that this is the worst drought in the Caribbean in the past
five years and there is concern that the impact on crops, livestock and
reservoirs could worsen in the coming months.

Forecasters have indicated that the intense dry
conditions is as a result of El Nino, a phenomena which results in the warming
of the tropical Pacific and affects global weather patterns. Forecasters had
previously indicated that the El Nino will cause a quieter than normal
hurricane season with shorter periods of rainfall. The few tropical disturbances
that have formed have not had any significant effects on water supply.

Chief Agricultural Officer, Mr. Bevin Braithwaite detailed
the extent of local impact saying “The foliage is significantly dry, creating
difficulty for farmers in finding suitable pasture for their animals. The
limited water supply is causing considerable reliance on subsidised feed which
has to be imported. Government is examining ways to assist local farmers.”

Mr. Brathwaite also indicated that the drought forced
the cancellation of the annual Mango Array & Tropical Fruit Festival.

The Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Service has not
reported any significant increase in bush fires. However, they are cautioning
residents not to engage in any outdoor burning during this particularly dry

Director of the Department of Disaster Management, Ms.
Sharleen DaBreo said “This part of the season is drier than usual and temperatures
are above normal. There is an indication that the heat is becoming
uncomfortable for many residents, primarily children and the elderly.  It is important that these vulnerable groups
are kept cool as they are most susceptible to the effects of heat.”

Stressing the importance of conservation, Ms. DaBreo
said, “With the drought watch now in place, residents are urged to conserve
water and monitor their homes and businesses to ensure that leaks are detected and
repairs made urgently.”

Many Caribbean islands are being affected by the
drought conditions with Puerto Rico being among the worst hit by water shortage
which is affecting 1.5 million people. The Government of Puerto Rico has been
forced to impose strict rationing and use the local National Guard to distribute
water and impose fines on persons and businesses which use scarce water
resources improperly.

A drought warning is currently in place for Puerto
Rico, St. Lucia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Martinique and the western
side of Belize.

The Caribbean Agricultural research and Development
institute has reported that the drought has resulted in more than $1 million in
crop losses, tens of thousands of dollars in livestock losses and water systems
are near collapse. In addition, many hotels are being affected and have curtailed
water usage as a result of reservoirs being far below capacity.