Natural Hazard Risk
The most common natural hazards in Sri Lanka include localized and seasonal floods and associated landslides. Less frequent but more severe hazards include cyclones, droughts, and tsunamis; Sri Lanka was one of the worst hit countries by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. According to World Bank estimates, the country’s average annual losses are $380 million, or 3 percent of total government expenditure.
Sri Lanka’s flood risk profile is rising. In the Colombo Metropolitan Region, economic growth and changes in land use are exacerbating flood risk. In 2010, heavy rainfall and flooding affected about 50 percent of the private sector. In May 2016, Tropical Storm Roanu caused flooding and landslides in 22 out of 25 districts. Over 90 people were killed and damages and losses, per the preliminary post-disaster needs assessment, exceed $570 million.
Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and impact of hydro-meteorological hazards. Major flooding in 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2016 exemplifies a 20-year trend.
The Sri Lanka Disaster Management Act, enacted after the 2004 tsunami, provides the legal basis for the disaster risk management (DRM) system. The act established the National Council for Disaster Risk Management as the lead authority and the Disaster Management Center as the executing agency.
Steps to advance DRM include: strengthening disaster monitoring and early warning systems; improving emergency preparedness and planning; and integrating DRM in land-use and development planning. The National Disaster Management Policy (2013) highlights the need for fiscal resilience and for developing and updating hazard and risk profiles considering climate change.
To further advance the DRM agenda, government priorities include:
- Increasing fiscal resilience to climate and disaster risk, including a comprehensive disaster risk financing and insurance strategy;
- Reducing the risk of flooding by promoting environmentally sustainable growth; and,
- Building the geo-hazard and landslide risk management capacities of government agencies and communities to strengthen infrastructure resilience and to ensure safety.
GFDRR has supported disaster resilience in Sri Lanka since 2008, including: strengthening government capacity to generate and to share risk information; reducing the country’s vulnerability to climate risk; and, developing disaster risk financing.
In 2010, GFDRR supported a post-flood assessment for metropolitan Colombo. In response to the flood and findings from the assessment, the government sought support from GFDRR and the World Bank to address the flood risk in the metropolitan capital of Colombo. A GFDRR-supported hydraulic model and updated rain-pattern analysis of the Colombo Water Basin highlighted the critical role of urban wetlands in reducing flood risk. This work informed and helped leverage a $213 million World Bank project to reduce flooding in Colombo.
The Open Cities Project launched in 2012. To date, over 130,000 buildings have been mapped on the crowd-sourced OpenStreetMap database for Batticaloa City and Gampaha District. A public disaster risk information platform was launched in 2016, and the data was used to assess real-time flooding impacts that year.
In 2014, a comprehensive climate risk management program was initiated. GFDRR-financed technical assistance informed a $110 million World Bank investment to reduce climate-risk vulnerability and to improve the government’s capacity to respond effectively to disasters. GFDRR has provided ongoing support to this investment through the development of localized flood and landslide risk analysis and mitigation strategies.
As part of the program, GFDRR supported the preparation of a $102 million World Bank development policy loan with a Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat-DDO), a World Bank disaster risk finance instrument that increases fiscal resilience in the aftermath of a disaster. A GFDRR-supported fiscal disaster risk assessment complemented the Cat-DDO by providing a menu of risk financing options. In 2016, following severe flooding and landslides, the Cat-DDO was triggered to expedite post-disaster recovery.
Further, in 2016, GFDRR launched a regional initiative to develop a community of practice focused on integrating geo-hazard risk management in infrastructure programs. Exchanges have included a South-South Learning workshop in Sri Lanka, focused on geo-hazard risk management in the transport sector.
GFDRR anticipates continued demand for support from the Government of Sri Lanka in:
- Advancing the DRFI agenda;
- Identifying drought risk management interventions in selected drought-prone regions;
- Strengthening resilient infrastructure planning in the Colombo Metropolitan Region;
- Expanding the coverage and capacities of national spatial data infrastructure; and,
- Improving community and institutional geo-hazard risk management.