By Carlena Knight
Residents and other interested individuals will soon be able to access droves of environmental information about the country when a pioneering online portal goes live later this week.
The National Environmental Data & Information System (NEIS) and the Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) are two highly technical yet user-friendly pieces of software that will provide users with ample data on a wide spectrum of environmental issues, from safe drinking water to marine coastal barriers, invasive species and various environmental laws.
The work was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Present at the project’s launch yesterday was the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Programme Manager for Sustainable Solutions and Energy, Mohammed Nagdee.
Nagdee not only spoke on the impact of the venture but congratulated the country on “being a leader in the region” where this is concerned.
Not only will the portal provide data for the Department of Environment (DOE) when creating national reports to various multilateral environment agreements, but it will also help prepare pertinent information for reports for policymakers in Antigua and Barbuda.
It also benefits the everyday person such as by making information available to schoolchildren, farmers and even developers who may be interested in a specific area.
“There’s numerous other examples but this data will be helpful as well with the environmental impact assessment process,” DOE representative Jason Williams explained.
“With new developments, especially if it is deemed that the development will have some sort of impact on the environment, what we do is mandate the developers to prepare an assessment.
“The consultants would now have to try and access the information from wherever they can get it from but with this platform the data is there, the data is readily available,” he added.
The systems were created with the help of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute in Jamaica and the Design and Environmental Consultancy in Canada.
Deputy Director of Mona GeoInformatics, Dr Ava Maxum, explained that in the future everyone will be able to upload information on environmental impacts they see happening, like shoreline erosion.
“In this way you can also alert the government to what’s happening within your neck of the woods. For example, you know a lot of Caribbean islands depend on tourism as it is one of our major revenue earners.
“And all of the time shoreline erosion is something that we have to keep a close eye on so reports on erosion, you know, just different things, different impacts due to global warming that may hamper the environment, persons can easily make a report and send it to the system,” Dr Maxum added.
She said that they will be holding training sessions with the DOE to outline how the system works.
The training is scheduled for 9am to 12pm starting today and ending on September 23.
President of the Design and Environmental Consultancy, David Oswald, who also spoke at the event, shared that it was a very challenging process to get the system on stream as they began their work during the start of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, he noted that the programme will help the country keep the balance between nature and humanity, and play a special role in showing the region how to fuse technology and the environment.
Thus far, St Lucia has launched its own version of the programme, while talks are underway in Guyana to implement something similar.
“There’s a lot of countries right now that are looking for role models in terms of how we can advance this agenda by infusing technology with these processes.
“This is just one step in a longer road forward and we are looking forward to walking that path with you, as well as other Caribbean countries and Latin America, because the global challenge in sustainable development and managing this delicate balance between humanity and nature is not up to one country, it’s up to regions,” Oswald said.
Persons can access the online portal at NEIS.gov.ag or NRI.gov.ag.
The websites will go on stream later this week.