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Abstract

About two thirds of Jamaica is karst landscape, and karstic hazards affect much of the country and about half of the population, mostly in rural areas. The karst includes extensive areas of dolines and dry valleys, together with poljes and classical tropical tower and cockpit karst. With population and urbanization increases, and as infrastructure is developed, karstic hazards are becoming more prevalent and risks are increasing. One major natural hazard is seasonal drought, which disrupts water supplies, particularly in rural areas where groundwater resources are poorly developed and residents depend on rainwater and springs. Conversely, seasonal flooding, particularly that associated with tropical storms, causes property damage and human death, injury and displacement. Ground surface subsidence and collapse threatens developing infrastructure, dwellings and livestock, but the potential for catastrophic karstic failure of industrial facilities such as dams and retention ponds, including the storage facilities associated with bauxite mining and processing, appears to be relatively limited. Slope failure also occurs, but is not often recognized as a hazard and has not been studied in detail. Human impacts include quarrying, bauxite mining, groundwater abstraction, urbanization, agricultural development and tourism. Groundwater contamination is a serious anthropogenic hazard, particularly associated with the bauxite industry. Less than 10% of the karst area is within protected areas.

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