A Study of Urban Planning in Tsunami-Prone Areas of Sri Lanka

Thisara Uduwarage, Chandula De Zoysa, A Abeysinghe, Richard Haigh, Dilanthi Amaratunga, Ranjith Dissanayake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tsunamis pose significant challenges for disaster reduction efforts due to the multi-hazard, cascading nature of these events, including a range of different potential triggering and consequential hazards. Although infrequent, they have the potential to cause devastating human and economic losses. Effective urban planning has been recognised as an important strategy for reducing disaster risk in cities. However, there have been limited studies on urban planning for tsunami-prone areas, and there have been wide ranging strategies adopted globally. This is an international study aimed at exploring the status of urban planning in tsunami areas and better understanding potential urban planning strategies to reduce disaster risk in coastal regions. Drawing upon the work of an international collaborative research team, in this article, we present the findings of a systematic review of the urban planning literature. Using the PRISMA guidelines, 56 papers were selected, and three guiding questions informed the review. Further empirical investigations were carried out in Sri Lanka by a local research team, including twelve semi-structured interviews with representatives from agencies in urban planning, construction, and disaster management, and a focus group representing town and country planning, architecture, structural engineering, disaster management, landscape and geospatial planning, building services, green buildings and infrastructure and environmental management fields. The combined analysis reveals insights into the characteristics of the literature, as well as the nature of existing strategies for urban planning in tsunami-prone areas, grouped into six broad themes: community participation, spatial planning, soft and hard engineering;,evacuation planning, and resilience thinking. The findings also reveal limitations in existing strategies, including their failure to address multi-hazard threats and systemic risk, as well as inadequate community participation, and limited access to timely disaster risk information. The findings are used to inform an initial model of urban planning strategies in tsunami-prone areas that can be used before a hazard event occurs, during and in the immediate response to a hazard event, and during recovery and reconstruction following a disaster.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-592
Number of pages31
Issue number3
Early online date23 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2022


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