On the back of Sri Lanka experiencing some of the worst floods and droughts in history over the past 18 months, the World Bank noted that the 2018 budget should have reached for more disaster prevention programmes.
“So we’ve seen some (in the budget). We don’t think it’s enough to be honest, but it’s very promising and very implementable disaster risk resilience,” World Bank Sri Lanka Senior Country Economist Ralph van Doorn said.
Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product (GDP) faced sharp declines in 2016 and 2017 due to a continuous chain of natural disasters.
In response, there were around half a dozen major proposals to spend approximately Rs.39 billion for disaster resilience in the 2018 budget, including strengthening river banks, integrated flood prevention mechanisms for Colombo, climate index-based insurance for agriculture and rehabilitation of roads.
van Doorn said that the proposal to widely share meteorological data for better anticipation of weather was also welcome, since in the past, there has been slow response from the government towards disasters and there has been a lack of available data.
As one solution to tackle slow response, he said that the government should identify risk-prone areas and have standing contracts with infrastructure development companies to bring areas to normalcy immediately.
“For example, you know landslides destroy the roads.
So if your weather forecasts predict there’s going to be very bad weather for the next five days, you know there will be landslides and you know where landslides typically happen, you can already activate contracts with road construction companies to tell them, ‘look, at the moment a road is hit with a landslide, you can try to repair it’, rather than waiting for it to happen, then search for a company to rebuild roads,” he said.
van Doorn noted that Sri Lanka has been facing an increasing frequency of natural disasters and increasing damage from natural disasters due to a more sophisticated economy, urbanization and denser population compared to several decades ago.
He also said that the poor face the brunt of natural disasters since they live in areas which are not resilient towards natural disasters, which makes such areas more affordable. (CW)