Road safety, climate resilience and the infrastructure needs for a new and electrified vehicle fleet are among the discussions that engage transportation professionals during the 11th International Road Federation (IRF) Caribbean Regional Congress.
The Congress opened Wednesday, June 14, 2023 at Atlantis, Paradise Island to the theme “A Roadmap to a Safe, Inclusive and Resilient Transport System”. Attendees include IRF delegates, representatives of supporting organizations including the IDB, World Bank Group and Caribbean Development Bank, representatives of public works and road agencies; regional institutions, major road contractors and design consultancies, civil society and transportation faculties and research institutes among others.
Present at the opening were: the Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities; the Hon. Jobeth Coleby, Minister of Transport and Housing; Bacchus Rolle, Parliamentary Secretary; Public Works ministers of the region; Luther Smith, Permanent Secretary; representatives of NEMA, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and officials from the Ministry of Works and Utilities.
Participants included C. Patrick Sankey, President and CEO, IRF Global; Dr. Lisa Fitz-Charles, Under Secretary who gave welcome address on behalf of Her Excellency Ambassador Leslia Miller-Brice. Jean Todt, UN Secretary, General Special Envoy for Road Safety gave the keynote address which was recorded.
In remarks, Minister Sears emphasized the urgent need for sustainable roads and infrastructure in the face of the existential threat of climate change.
Minister Sears highlighted the impact of Hurricane Dorian on The Bahamas. He said the most “horrific” hurricane of September 2019 resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and thousands of persons were made homeless.
“According to the IDB, The Bahamas sustained an economic loss of US$3.4 billion equivalent to 1/5 of GDP of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Therefore the issue about sustainability and resilience is not an academic exercise in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and indeed within the Caribbean because even though the carbon footprint is relatively small, the United Nations has declared island nation states to be the most vulnerable in the world.”
Minister Sears urged attendees to collaborate and explore how countries can collectively address the critical needs of citizens while strengthening the entire Caribbean. “How our countries can incentivize drivers who purchase hybrid and electric vehicles; how our countries can design roadways that accommodate all of our residents riding bicycles to school or work and how we can use more renewable energy in the production of asphalt and the construction and maintenance of roadways.
“Our solutions will not only help to stimulate economic development and reduce pollution which contribute to climate change, global warming and catastrophic hurricanes but also our solutions may help to address the rising cases of obesity and non-communicable disease throughout our region. Indeed, let us together achieve the goal of developing a roadmap to a safe, inclusive and resilient transport system,” he said.
Minister Sears extended appreciation to participants, speakers and sponsors and informed them that their presence and expertise are vital in shaping the discourse and paving the way for transformative change in the transportation sector.
He encouraged the delegates to seize the opportunity to learn, collaborate and forge partnerships that will accelerate their journey towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive road infrastructure.
Among the themes for the congress, June 13-16: decarbonization of road transport/clean energy, delivering resilient road infrastructure/disaster recovery and response, innovative and climate friendly materials for resilience and low cost road surveys and inspections.
By KATHRYN CAMPBELL/Bahamas Information Services
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