City Council Leaders from Eight Cities Discuss Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies and the Way Forward
June 2013, Balangoda, Sri Lanka. On 14th June 2013, Council Leaders from 8 cities including City Council Mayors, Council Chairmen and Commissioners met in the city of Balangoda to share their experiences, lessons learned and to discuss the way forward on ‘City based Disaster Resilient Development Strategies”. This project is funded by the Government of Australia and implemented by UN-Habitat.
The meeting marked the successful completion of the project “Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies for Sri Lankan cities (Phase I)” in the cities of Batticaloa, Ratnapura, Kalmunai and Balangoda and the commencement of its second phase “Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies for four Cities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka (Phase II)” in the cities of Akkaraipattu, Vavuniya, Mannar and Mullaitivu. The participants at the meeting included Municipal Mayors, Urban Council Chairmen, Deputy Mayors, Municipal Councilors and other senior officials of the selected cities, including the Municipal Commissioner of Batticaloa, Mr. K.Sivanathan; Mayor of Ratnapura Municipal Council, Mr.V.K.W.Abeyratne; Mayor of the Akkaraipattu Municipal Council, Mr. Ahamed Zackie Athaullah; Municipal Commissioner of Kalmunai, Mr. J Liyakath Ali; Vice Chairman of the Mannar Urban Council, Mr. James Jesuthasan, and Chairman of the Balangoda Urban Council, Mr. W.M.N.G. Weerasinghe. Representatives from UN-Habitat, Moratuwa University, Urban Development Authority and Management Resources for Good Governance (MaRRG) also participated in the forum.
The primary objective of the meeting was to discuss key outputs of the Phase I Project implemented by UN-Habitat during 2012 – 2013 and to share experiences. The event also provided a forum for informal self-evaluation among the city leaders. It recognised the Mayors and their officers for their tireless efforts in implementing the project in each city. Through case study presentations and interactive discussions, the forum provided awareness to the new city council leaders on the good practices in formulating and implementing DRR plans. Mr. James Jesuthasan, Vice Chairman of Mannar Urban Council stated “The people of Mannar are thankful to UN-Habitat for supporting disaster resilient city development in our city and for the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other cities”.
City Council leaders of the cities of Ratnapura, Balangoda, Kalmunai and Batticaloa addressed the forum and shared their thoughts on the key project achievements in their cities. The Chairman of Balangoda Urban Council Mr. W.M.N.G. Weerasinghe, addressing the gathering stated “We wish to thank UN-Habitat for implementing this project in Balangoda. A long term requirement of the Balangoda people to overcome flood risk is being addressed through the formulation of the landscape design for the Dorawela Oya rehabilitation and flood mitigation pilot project”.
The meeting culminated with a visit to the Balangoda Urban Council pilot project site along the Dorawela Oya. The main objectives of the rehabilitation of the Dorawela Oya initiative is to mitigate urban flood inundation of Balangoda town and to improve adaptive capacity, minimize erosion of the stream bank and to provide recreational and leisure facilities to enhance the aesthetic value of the area.
Discussing the importance of disaster mitigation at city level, the UN-Habitat Programme Manager Mr.Laxman Perera stated “We are very pleased to develop the capacity of the selected 8 cities on disaster resilience. Following the successful conclusion of Phase I of the programme, we are now looking forward to working in partnership with the selected four city councils during the next 12 months”.
Through the first phase of the project, Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness Plans, Disaster Risk Reduction Feature into the building guidelines, Establishing City Disaster Preparedness Committee (CDPC) and Community-based Disaster Response Teams (CDRT) were successfully implemented in the first phase cities. Consecutively, amendments to the Urban Development Plans and Disaster Mitigation Pilot Projects are being implemented progressively in each city. UN-Habitat is implementing the project in collaboration with the local authorities, University of Moratuwa, Urban Development Authority and the Disaster Management Center.