February 2014, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in collaboration with the local authorities of Mannar, Maritimepattu (Mullaitivu) and Vavuniya, ceremonially opened Disaster Resilient Urban Planning and Development Units in each local authority. Establishing the Disaster Resilient Urban Planning and Development Units is a key component of the Disaster Resilient City Development Strategies for Four Cities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka (Phase II) Project. The project is funded by the Government of Australia and is implemented by UN-Habitat, in collaboration with the University of Moratuwa, Ministry of Disaster Management, Urban Development Authority and Local Authorities of the Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu and Akkaraipattu.
The unit in Mannar Urban Council was opened on February 17 by the Hon. Chairman of Mannar Urban Council, Mr. S. Gnanapragasam, UN-Habitat Programme Manager for Sri Lanka, Mr. Saman Ekanayake, UN-Habitat National Project Manager – DRR, Plnr. Indu Weerasoori, Hon. Vice Chairman of the Council, Mr. S. J. F. Jesuthasan, and Secretary of the Council Mr. X. L Renald. Other senior Government and Local Authority officers also participated in the event. Mr. Jesuthasan stated “This is a memorable occasion for the Mannar Urban Council and we are thankful to the Government of Australia and UN-Habitat for supporting disaster resilient development in our city.”
The units in Maritimepattu Pradeshiya Sabha in Mullaitivu town, and Vavuniya Urban Council were opened on February 18, 2014. In Mullaitivu, the opening ceremony was chaired by the Additional Government Agent of Mullaitivu District, Mr. Mohanarajah, and included the participation of the Assistant Commissioner of Local Government, Mullaitivu, Mr. N. Prabakaran and Secretary of Maritimepattu Pradeshiya Sabha, Mr. S. Raveendranathan, as along with UN-Habitat staff. Mr. Mohanarajah, stated “The council has a major role to play in city disaster management and this is good opportunity for the city to plan and implement disaster management activities in a sustainable manner.” Following the opening ceremony, the invitees planted trees to demonstrate Mullaitivu’s commitment to sustainability.
In Vavuniya, the unit was ceremonially opened by the Secretary of the Vavuniya Urban Council, Mr. K. Sathiyaseelan, Assistant Director of the District Disaster Management Unit, Vavuniya, Mr. Sooriyarajah and UN-Habitat staff. Mr. Sathiyaseelan stated “I am grateful to the Government of Australia and UN-Habitat for selecting Vavuniya for this Project and providing this unit with all the necessary equipment. We will work together to reduce the risk of disasters in Vavuniya.”
The units will be responsible for the implementation of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness Plan and for working with partner agencies such as the Urban Development Authority, the Disaster Management Centre, the University of Moratuwa and other Government Organizations. The units will also be responsible for the supervision and monitoring of the disaster risk reduction project implementation and will work closely with the Technical Working Groups established under the Project. Other responsibilities of the units include providing technical and financial support for disaster preparedness, response and management in the council areas, raising community awareness and providing access to information on disaster resilient technologies, along with providing guidance on disaster risk reduction procedures.