Natural hazards regularly have an adverse effect on Sri Lanka and the Maldives, impacting livelihoods, destroying infrastructure and disrupting the provision of essential services. In addition, rapid urban development with weak quality control cause spontaneous building collapses and construction accidents that threat people’s lives. Responding to such challenges, two governments have embarked journeys to strengthen the safety and resilience of the built environment through effective building regulatory frame.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank are supporting this effort through the Building Regulation for Resilience (BRR) Program  to assess the current level of building regulatory capacity of each country and setting up priority actions for further improvements. 

On July 15 and 16, 2019, in Malé, two Governments hosted the Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment (BRCA) Action Planning Workshops in collaboration with the World Bank, University College London EPICentre, local partners from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, and Riyan Private Limited in the Maldives. The objective of two workshops were to validate the findings of the ongoing BRCA for each country and discuss the priority of recommended actions to further strengthen building regulatory framework for two countries. These recommendations distilled from the BRCAs will inform the design of the proposed Maldives Urban Development and the Resilience Project as well as the Government of Sri Lanka’s new initiative to develop their own building code.

Eng. Champa Alahakoon, Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs, presenting observations on the BRCA process in Sri Lanka.

Eng. Champa Alahakoon, Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs, presenting observations on the BRCA process in Sri Lanka.

(Photo Credit: World Bank/GFDRR)

Supporting Resilience in the Maldives

The BRCA Maldives Action Planning Workshop took place on July 15, 2019. The session was chaired by Mr. Mohamed Aslam, Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure, and Mr. Mohammed Ali, Minister of State for National Planning and Infrastructure from the Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure (MNPI). A wide group of stakeholders involved in the Maldives’ urban development were invited, including participants from the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of National Defence Force, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, and local organisations including the Association of Civil Engineers, MNACI, Architects Association, Contractors Association. It was also attended by international organizations including UNDP and the Maldives Red Crescent.

“Standards need to be maintained; we cannot compromise the safety of the public. Regulatory mechanisms must be strengthened and I have no doubt that this workshop provides an opportunity to develop better regulations in our country.” -- Mr. Mohamed Aslam, Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure.

The discussion was framed around a series of recommendations that would support the government’s intent of building the resilience. After several rounds of discussion among the participants, the workshop concluded by outlining a series of prioritized recommendations. In broad terms, these actions advocate:

  • Completing and implementing the National Development Plan (2019-2028), including policies for accessible, safe and technically-sound buildings.
  • Developing compliance documents to implement the Building Code of Maldives, strengthening its Disaster Risk considerations and improve hazard data collection to inform code development.
  • Supporting implementation mechanisms such as capacity building for technical officials, development of an electronic permitting system and institutional organization. These efforts aim to address the need of qualified staff in building permitting processes and streamline the fragmented approval process currently operating.

These engagements will inform the World Bank’s evolving operations in DRM and Urban areas: (i) the ongoing Development Policy Financing with Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option and Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility that aims to enhance the country’s financial capacity to effectively manage impacts of climate change, natural disasters and disease outbreaks; and (ii) the proposed Maldives Urban Development and Resilience Project that will enhance the resilience of urban services in selected cities in the country.

Effective legislation for Sri Lanka

The BRCA Sri Lanka Action Planning Workshop took place on July 16, 2019. The session was chaired by Dr. Asiri Karunawardena from the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO), Archt. H.K. Balachandra from the Construction Industry Development Authority (CIDA) and Eng. Champa Alahakoon from the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs.

Key government officials from agencies involved in urban development were invited, including those from the Urban Development Authority, the Construction Industry Development Authority, the National Building Research Organisation, the Disaster Management Centre and the Colombo Municipal Council.

“Implementation on the ground is key. Open, transparent and inclusive processes lead to successful code development. Throughout the process, wide consultations and involvement of various groups are necessary including the private sector and citizen groups. In addition, the use of technology and managing data, will contribute to effective implementation.” -- Eng. Champa Alahakoon, from the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs.

The discussion became an opportunity for a dialogue to agree process to develop effective building regulatory framework and implementation mechanism. The outcome of the sessions showed priority actions, including:

  • Developing and implementing the new Sri Lanka Building Code, locally relevant in terms of hazards, design and construction practices.
  • Reducing gaps and overlaps in legislation, regulation and institutional mandates while strengthening institutional capacities.
  • Improving the building approval process and enhance the capacity of local authorities through training programmes.

In addition to these observations, both workshops served as a guiding reference for future concrete actions for implementation. After the BRCAs, it is expected that the Sri Lanka and the Maldives governments, with support of the World Bank, will continue their efforts towards making more effective legislation to materialize a more resilient and safer built environment.