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Open Cities: Jamaica

HOT Project



Solid waste accumulation in Kingston’s gullies has been linked to flooding in the surrounding communities and pollution of the harbor. This OC project focused on using mapping to analyze the impacts and help with the solutions.

Jamaica is one of the larger Caribbean Islands with a substantial urban area around the capital city of Kingston. The rapid urbanization has caused issues with solid waste disposal and pollution.

Much of the pollution is visible in the concrete waterways throughout Kingston, its many suburbs and the Kingston Harbor. This leads to problems, including urban flooding and heavy marine pollution. Several studies have been conducted to identify and assess the effects, however, longer sustained methods of data gathering and monitoring are either lacking or not readily available for general use and analysis.

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) provided support to local partners through a local implementing team, to create an analysis of the solid waste accumulation and its effect on urban flooding and harbor pollution. The aim was to develop open-mapping methodologies to capture data, from both ground and aerial mapping. Partnerships with local and international actors in emergency management and marine protection was integral to the development and sustainability of this initiative.

An additional aim of the project was to expand the use of open-mapping (ground and aerial) and open data technologies, especially among youth and academia, to establish and grow alternative avenues of geodata capture and mapping.


Mapping Solid Waste and Battling Floods

The OpenCities Jamaica project focused on the use of geospatial data and analysis to investigate impact of solid waste accumulation in Kingston’s gullies and surrounding communities, particularly in relation to existing drainage infrastructure and urban flooding issues.

This post provides an overview of this initiative’s impact as extracted from the Impact Report. To learn more, please see the project Impact Report.

The project focused on how mapping can be used to help remedy the issue of solid waste disposal in the gullies of the capital city; which inevitably make it to the sea. Kingston’s Harbour is subject to a significant intake of Jamaica’s solid waste that is being improperly disposed of in the network of constructed waterways, known as gullies.

Several initiatives have been implemented to collect, categorize and reduce the accumulation of solid waste at the point of entry into the gullies. At least 15 main gullies traverse through several residential and commercial communities along their route.

The issue of flooding in these communities near the gullies was one of the issues which the data collected from the project could assist with. The project captured mapping data in the Barnes Gully and the surrounding communities. This community was chosen based on its proximity to and impact on the harbor and its historic frequency of flooding.

The work in Barnes gully will serve as a baseline and an opportunity for learning for future engagement in similar projects. The mapping data to be collected evolved over an iterative process by first identifying routes from waste heaps to collection, the location of traditional points of flooding and the distance between these points in relation to gully banks.


These inputs provided the necessary values for several map outputs from the analysis in the form of shapefiles. The data collected under the project provided a richer information set to the decision makers and authorities of sanitation of drainage.

The project team is planning to re-engage stakeholders with project findings and gauge appetite for collaboration in future projects, namely National Solid Waste Management Agency (NSWMA), National Works Agency (NWA), and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) among others.

The training programme executed under the project was linked to the project goal of empowering local communities to better collect, understand, coordinate and action open mapping data. A major accomplishment was the development and teaching of a curriculum around open mapping in close collaboration with the Caribbean School of Data (CSOD).

The enrolled program participants were drawn from residents in communities proximate, existing social programs, while also working closely with the YouthMappers Chapter at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Another highlight of the project was the field mapping and hackathon exercise, where participants were providing a voice, not only in the data collection but on how the data could be used and have an impact on their own life. Under the hackathon, a team was awarded a grant to develop their app. Data on drainage networks and the surrounding communities in Kingston is now more widely available.


The data collection activities covered 24 known flood points over a 3.4 ha area in the city impacting a 6,886 person. Additionally, 58 illegal solid waste collections identified over a 14.8 ha coverage, with 142 drainage features of interest over 1.4 km of linear drainage. 351 new features added on the map. 76 participants were trained, 67 % of them were women.

Partners: St Patrick Rangers, Mona school of Business & Management, Caribbean School of Data (CSOD)