World Bank, the (WB)
Sri Lanka, along with neighboring countries, was not equipped to face the Indian Ocean Tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. A total of around 230,000 people lost their lives in countries located along the Indian Ocean. The need for an early warning system and to be better prepared to manage disasters to save lives and livelihoods was the biggest lesson learnt in the aftermath of the tsunami 10 years ago. According to the Disaster Management Center of Sri Lanka, the country now has better early warning systems to detect tsunamis and other disasters and is better equipped to respond to future disasters.
Many development partners came forward to support Sri Lanka in the emergency phase and recovery phase of the tsunami. The World Bank with the lessons learnt through initial operations in the aftermath of the tsunami (Tsunami Emergency Reconstruction Program) is working with the Government of Sri Lanka to be better prepared for the next disaster by reducing the economic impact of such external shocks. Such operations would reduce the negative impact of disasters on the overall development and poverty reduction efforts of the country.
“I thought people were joking when they said the sea is coming inland. Then I saw a gush of blackish water coming towards my house which is more than 100m from the sea…I grabbed my sleeping children and shouted out to my husband to run. This was the only warning we got,” said K.K. Sriyani from Talpe in Galle, who is now the Secretary of the community based disaster management committee. At that time, they did not know which direction to run. Today, with the coordination of the DMC and its community based activities including early warning drills, the village is now prepared to congregate at the temple which is situated on higher ground, and is equipped to give refuge to people in time of a disaster.
With the lessons learnt following the 2004 tsunami, the Disaster Management Center (DMC), under the Ministry of Disaster Management has been leading efforts to enhance disaster risk management in close collaboration with development partners working in Sri Lanka. Working together, this group has been able to create a “culture of safety in Sri Lanka. Establishment of early warning systems including robust communications links with local and international technical agencies, an around the clock emergency operations center, and engaging people from the grassroots level in both disaster awareness and mitigation activities.
“We now have an early warning tower and people are more aware on what needs to be done” said K.P. Pradeep from the DMC Galle explaining his role as an Assistant Coordinator engaged in community based activities promoting awareness among villagers, coordinating early warning drills and gathering disaster risk related information to report to the DMC Galle, which is based in the District Secretariat in Galle. “The tower can be activated in any part of the country through the DMC in Colombo,” said Pradeep, further explaining the early warning system that is in place.
Disaster Risk Management
The fiscal and physical impacts of natural disasters in Sri Lanka have been sizable over the past decade, particularly flooding and drought. In recognition of the social and economic effects of climate-related hazards, the Sri Lankan Government with the assistance of the World Bank is taking steps to strengthen the country’s resilience to natural disasters and climate change through a comprehensive program of support involving adaptation enhancing investments and a Catastrophe Deferred Draw-Down Option (CAT-DDO).
The Climate Resilience Improvement Project (CRIP) aims to reduce the vulnerability of exposed people and assets to climate risks and to improve the government’s capacity to respond effectively to future disasters. These objectives will be achieved through evidence-based investment planning and urgent risk mitigation measures. The development policy loan with CAT-DDO instrument offers immediate funds to the Government upon declaring a state of an emergency in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, thereby strengthening its fiscal resilience to natural disasters.