Wednesday, January 09 – Homeowners and property developers are being encouraged to prevent landslides through proper planning, management of storm water run-off, and construction of retaining structures.
This message comes from the National Disaster Management Council in an ongoing effort to educate the public about hazards which exist in the Virgin Islands.

A landslide is a rock, earth or debris flow on a slope, caused by gravity. In the BVI, landslides are commonly triggered by rainfall and can result in property damage and even loss of life.
Acting Director of Public Works Dr. Drexel Glasgow and Deputy Chief Planner in the Town and Country Planning Department Mr. Steve Augustine said that developers and homeowners can use a four-pronged approach to reduce the likelihood of a landslide. The prevention tools are minimizing excavation, managing storm water run-off, keeping or planting vegetation and building retaining structures.

Keeping excavation to a minimum is one way to prevent landslides, Mr. Augustine said. Building footprints can be kept small by building up, rather than out, or by building long, narrow homes across a hillside. Such designs minimize the effect on the hillside and cut down on the number and size of retaining structures required.
Dr. Glasgow said that careful planning of access roads and foundations also helps to prevent landslides. “Take your time and construct a proper road,” he said. “Make sure when you excavate that you leave proper slopes—not steep slopes but gentle slopes—and always seek the advice of an engineer.”

Managing storm water run-off is essential to preventing landslides, Dr. Glasgow added. “Always identify your drainage path,” he said. “When you first go on your property, look out for ghuts; look out for areas where water can settle and areas that have high velocity of water.”

Mr. Augustine said that homeowners should become familiar with the natural flow of water on their land. “It’s very important that you visit your site not just during the days when it’s sunny and bright, but also when it’s raining. That way you get a fair idea of how storm water flows over and around your property. You want to ensure that when your architect goes about designing your plans, he takes storm water runoff into consideration,” he said.

Vegetation and the use of retaining structures can also stop landslides. Vegetation retains the topsoil and slows the flow of water, while retaining structures, such as walls, stones, and mesh, hold the soil in place.
Homeowners and developers are encouraged to use all four measures—planning, storm water control, vegetation and retaining structures—to minimize their risk of experiencing a landslide.

“You wouldn’t want to build a structure and then four or five months down the road find that your foundation is failing and the dirt is moving below your house. These are measures to ensure that your development can sustain itself throughout the years, even in times of adverse weather conditions,” Mr. Augustine said.

The National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) is chaired by His Excellency the Governor and coordinates disaster preparedness and response readiness. The NDMC’s Public Education and Information Subcommittee promotes public awareness of hazards, among other responsibilities.