Briefing Paper: Integrating pandemic, tsunami, and other multi-hazard preparedness into urban planning in Sri Lanka

Ranjith Dissanayake, Chandula Jithmi De Zoysa, A. A. S. E. Abeysinghe, Dilanthi Amaratunga, Richard Haigh, Thisara Perera

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


Coastal cities often suffer from extreme natural hazards such as sea level rise, coastal storms, and heavy rains. Among them, tsunamis occur infrequently, but are one of the most potentially devastating hazards faced by coastal communities. This is due to their unpredictable nature and the high impact caused by a single event. For example, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami affected 15 countries and Sri Lanka was greatly affected by it. In Sri Lanka, the 2004 tsunami accounted for 35,399 fatalities, 114,069 damaged or destroyed houses and 480,000 human displacements. It is currently ranked sixth globally in terms of damages from tsunamis. Moreover, the event accounts for the greatest percentage (nearly 0.2% from its population) of loss of lives and the greatest economic damage from a disaster in Sri Lanka’s recent history. In response, Sri Lanka was compelled to build back better from the lessons learnt. Tsunamis, along with heavy winds and other coastal hazards, have proven to cause cascading impacts to coastal communities in Sri Lanka.

Despite the ongoing threat posed by such hazards, Sri Lankan legal frameworks and urban planning guidelines appear to lack the necessary regulations to address tsunami and other multi-hazard threats. They also fail to adequately support resilience building efforts and to reduce disaster risk. Also, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which affected all communities in the country, guidelines for coastal urban planning need to deepen the integration of pandemic and multi-hazard aspects. In this context, a review of existing guidelines and identification of gaps are vital to plan for the development of more resilient coastal cities in Sri Lanka.

This brief presents some key findings of an investigation carried out to identify the current status of tsunami and multi-hazard preparedness in the context of urban planning within Sri Lanka.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherGlobal Disaster Resilience Centre
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Cite this