16 September 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Urban Development officially declared open a workshop on ‘Urban Resilience’ organised jointly by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
The Secretary in his address highlighted the increasing importance of Urban Resilience, which enables cities to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural and man-made crises with minimum damage to public safety and health, the economy and security. “As global populations become more and more concentrated in cities, it is essential that town planners, representatives of municipal and urban authorities and other stakeholders become more familiar with techniques and best practices that can be adopted to enhance urban resilience” Mr. Rajapaksa stated. He mentioned that significant urbanization trends are being experienced by Sri Lanka, with more than half its population likely to live in cities by the year 2020.
Mr. Nimal Perera, Chairman of the UDA, the lead agency in Sri Lanka for Urban Planning, welcoming the participants, highlighted the need for cities to improve resilience planning, given the increasing trends of both urbanization and disaster risk.
Mr. Srinivasa Popuri, Senior Human Settlement Officer, UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, highlighted that a people-centred process can be a critical success factor in sustainable urban planning and resilience. “In post crisis situations where housing and urban planning interventions play a significant role, UN-Habitat has advocated an approach where the affected people are placed at the centre of their development and recovery processes.” he said.
Prof. Willie Mendis, in his keynote address stated that while in Sri Lanka the central government has been sensitized to climate related multi-hazard risks, it is less so at the periphery – local levels. As local government institutions have very little capacity to prepare and respond to disaster risks. Prof. Mendis highlighted that a greater level of professional skill and capacity is needed at the local levels.
Sessions on Social Planning in Resilient Cities and Planning for Future cities followed the ceremonial opening with presentations by international experts Prof Uthpal Sharma and Dr. Barbara Lipietz.
The workshop brought together national urban planners, Mayors and Urban Chairmen, Municipal Associations and Network representatives, Disaster Risk and Emergency Managers, Civil Engineers, policy makers, donors, Development Banks and Financial Institutions, Think Tank Analysts and Private Sector Researchers, development practitioners and academics.
The workshop was jointly funded by the Government of Australia and the Urban Development Authority as part of the project on “Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies for Sri Lanka” implemented by UN-Habitat and partners.