To enhance resilience to climate change in coastal Sri Lankan cities, the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) together with its national partners – the University of Moratuwa, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Batticaloa Municipal Council (BMC) and Negombo Municipal Council (NMC), have initiated a new project titled “Climate Resilient Action Plans for Coastal Urban Areas, Sri Lanka (CCSL)”.
Funded by the Nordic Climate Facility, the project prepared in partnership with the Ministry of Environment will be implemented during the next 20 months in the Municipal Council areas of Batticaloa and Negombo. To mark its’ inception, an inauguration workshop was held on climate change adaptation in Sri Lanka on 4th November 2011 in Colombo, with Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, the Minister of Environment as the Chief Guest. Practitioners on climate change, environment and urban development from stakeholder agencies and Civil Society participated at the workshop to discuss Climate resilience initiatives, strategies and action plans.
Prof. Harsha Ratnaweera, Director of International Projects of NIVA stated that as many coastal cities in Sri Lanka had experienced devastating climate related impacts during the recent years, this initiative will focus on the most urgent needs of the coastal cities in adapting to climate change, and mitigating risks and the severity of impacts through Disaster Risk Management (DRM).
70% of Sri Lanka’s urban population and 80% of its economic infrastructure networks are concentrated in coastal cities which are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, flooding, salination of water resources, storm surges, cyclones and droughts. These impacts disproportionately affect urban poor communities, who are forced to live in the most vulnerable areas.
Prof. P.K.S.Mahanama, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Moratuwa said that the coastal cities of Batticaloa and Negambo have been particularly vulnerable to climate related natural disasters during the recent past. Batticaloa experienced the largest flood recorded in 100 years during December 2009 – January 2010 causing loss of life and property while significantly damaging the emerging tourism industry.
Recognising the urgent need to respond to climate change challenges, Batticaloa and Negambo Municipalities supported by UN-Habitat’s Cities and Climate Change Initiative, the University of Moratuwa and the Ministry of Environment conducted vulnerability/adaptation and Green House Gas assessments prioritising strategic response areas through participatory City Consultations in 2010.
The current project will support the two cities to develop and implement Climate Resilient Action Plans, which will include including the establishment of a multi-purpose green belt in the BMC coast to protect the lagoon and coastal areas, restore mangrove eco-systems and coastal bio-diversity; establishment of GIS-based Rapid Response System (RRS) and Knowledge Management Centers in both cities; and training on disaster resilient, energy efficient, low-cost shelter adaptation for communities living in vulnerable areas.
Mr. Laxman Perera, UN-Habitat Programme Manager for Sri Lanka said that the knowledge and lessons learnt from this project would benefit Sri Lanka’s other coastal cities in developing Climate Resilient Action Plans.