Stronger buildings for northern resettlement

21 Apr 2011

During January and February this year, the UNDP Disaster Risk Reduction Management Programme provided technical and financial support to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) in conducting several training programmes for government and non-government officials involved in housing construction and rehabilitation. The training programmes, implemented in keeping with the ‘Uthuru Wasanthanaya’ northern development initiative of the Government aimed to promote disaster resistant building construction.

Over 50 technical officers, planning officers and field engineers from Jaffna participated in the first training held in the Jaffana District Secretariat on January 10 and 11, 2011, while around 30 officers and engineers from Mannar, Mullaitivu, Killinochchi and Vavuniya districts attended the training programme conducted in Anuradhapura on February 22 and 23, 2011.

The programmes focused on diverse aspects relating to disaster resistant housing construction. Identification of land for construction considering disaster risks and land uses recommended by the National Physical Planning Policy were among the issues addressed. Roles and responsibilities of local authorities in approving disaster resistant housing construction and adaptation of type plans for housing in hazard prone areas were also discussed.

Identifying potential disaster hazards while constructing has proved crucial as improper building constructions have led to the loss of lives and increase of injuries during disasters, such as blowing-off of thatched roofs during cyclones and damages to structures built on flood plains during flooding and on slopes and unstable grounds prone to landslides. The Disaster Management Centre, with financial and coordinating support from UNDP, has been working closely with the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) to ensure that housing constructions in the vulnerable areas are disaster resilient. Through a formed Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), existing building guidelines were reviewed and improved for construction in areas prone to landslides, tsunami, floods and cyclones. This committee comprising of professionals from academia, technical agencies and professional bodies designed new type plans for government buildings such as schools, hospitals and community buildings, incorporating disaster resistant designs. The type plans vary depending on the types of disaster possible in a given location. For example, tying the roof with rope, wire or metal straps in cyclone prone areas and construction of structures based on the vertical evacuation model, enabling people to move up in buildings during flooding or a tsunami are among the aspects addressed in designing type plans. The TAC is also working on formulating procedures to legalise building codes and finalise a checklist for the local authorities to ensure safe building construction in disaster prone areas. In further promoting these best practices, a number of training programmes are expected to be conducted across the country in the future.