Rising disaster costs prompt Sri Lanka to combine risk reduction in planning
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government has begun incorporating disaster risk reduction measures into all development programs to reduce risks from floods and other events that put lives in danger and disrupt economic activity, an expert said.
The island has been facing disasters more frequently since the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, said Visaka Hidellage, Assistant Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
While relief measures remained important, there’s now more awareness of the need to mitigate the risks of disasters given their increasing frequency and costs, she said.
“The country has began accepting that managing disasters is linked to how land use, road planning, and rivers and water ways are managed, and how the education and health sectors are organised,” she said.
The government is now working to get different stakeholders to include disaster risk reduction into their planning, such as designing roads to minimise risks from damaging events like floods.
“Engineers trained to design roads the conventional way now have to take into account disaster risk reduction and its implications,” Hidellage told an international disaster convention in Colombo.
“It is tough – how to incorporate disaster risk reduction into our development planning – but it should be done.”
Over the last 10 years there has been better understanding of disasters but little was done to incorporate it into planning,” Hidellage told the forum organised by MDF Asia with UNDP and the Disaster Management Centre.
“May be that’s because disaster management was away from development planning. Disaster handling was kept as a separate subject with the ministry of disaster management and not inter related with development planning as it should be,” she said.
“The government now wants to look at disaster management more strategically.”
Programs have begun to mobilise different stakeholders at national and local level on how to factor disaster management into their own sectors with the government forming a comprehensive disaster management program.
“Ad hoc initiatives are not going to get us out of some of the risks we are facing,” she said. “So we need comprehensive integrated planning and implementation.”
(Colombo/December 07 2015)