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Mr. Rafi Ahmad Excellence

Award recognizing Mr. Rafi Ahmad as a regional leader in landslide hazard reduction in the Caribbean

For nearly 15 years, Rafi Ahmad has championed efforts to reduce landslide hazard and risk in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. Through his research and publications, he has improved the understanding of landslide occurrence in Jamaica. His contributions to popular publications and newspapers, development of a website, and talks to various groups have increased the awareness of the general public and other professional organizations to landslide problems in the country. As an active member of the Department of Geology at the University of the West Indies, Rafi’s infectious enthusiasm for this subject was transferred to many of his students. Consequently, he has increased the number of practicing professionals interested in landslide issues in both Jamaica and the Caribbean.

For nearly fifteen years, Rafi single-mindedly pursued the vision of incorporating landslide hazard zonation into Jamaican land use planning. Much of his effort started with hosting a ten-day workshop on landslide hazard assessment for a group that included civil engineers, planners, geologists, and students. Over the next few years, Rafi lead a group of dedicated advanced students collecting data on landslide processes operating in the Greater Kingston area. As tropical storms and hurricanes triggered damaging events, Rafi would be in the forefront of those professionals assessing their role in landslide occurrence. Rafi’s focus on education included more than that of his students. These storm events and associated impacts provided him with the opportunity to use newspaper accounts and other media to explain landslides to the public. A common theme to his efforts was that landslide impacts could be avoided in some cases and minimized in most. With the accumulated geologic data from his research and that of his students, Rafi sought funding to demonstrate how landslide hazard zonation could be applied in Jamaica. His collaboration with the Organization of American States and U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance provided the necessary support to initiate a geographic information system-based hazard zonation for the Greater Kingston area. Nearly ten years to the day after hosting the landslide hazard assessment workshop, Rafi culminated his quest with a workshop for Jamaican professionals and government agency representatives to address institutionalizing the landslide hazard assessment results into existing land use regulations and procedures. It is both for these accomplishments to date and his continued dedication to landslide hazard reduction that this honour is bestowed on him by his friends and colleagues.

Rafi was nominated for this award by Jerry DeGraff, who also provided the citation. The citation was reviewed by Earl Brabb and David Howell who had the citation printed and mounted in an attractive folder. The citation was presented by ILRG President Brabb as a surprise addition to his public lecture on July 17, 2003 sponsored by the Department of Geography and Geology, University of West Indies, the Geological Society of Jamaica, the Jamaica Geographical Society, the ­Jamaican National Environment and Planning Agency, and the Jamaican Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. Perhaps 100 of Rafi’s friends, colleagues, admirers and the general public were in the audience. A few days later, the ILRG received the following letter from Rafi: