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FEATURE STORY July 15, 2019

Building Regulations for Resilience in Sri Lanka and the Maldives

July 15-16, 2019
Malé, Maldives

Natural hazards, such as floods, tsunamis, storms, and cyclones regularly have an adverse effect on Sri Lanka and the Maldives, impacting livelihoods, destroying infrastructure, and disrupting the provision of essential services. In addition, rapid urban development with weak quality control causes spontaneous building collapses and construction accidents that threat people’s lives.

The Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries represented by the Tokyo Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Hub and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are supporting the two countries in strengthening the safety and resilience of the built environment through the Building Regulation for Resilience (BRR) Program. As a part of the program, current level of building regulatory capacity of both countries are assessed and priority actions for further improvements are recommended. The support aims to strengthen the resilience by learning from the Japanese knowledge and experience in building regulations and connecting with the two countries. 

Eng. Champa Alahakoon, Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs, presenting observations on the BRCA process in Sri Lanka.
(Photo Credit: World Bank/GFDRR)

Governments of the Maldives and Sri Lanka hosted the Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment (BRCA) Action Planning Workshops in Malé, on July 15 and 16, 2019, respectively. Workshops were organized in collaboration with the World Bank, University College London EPICentre, local partners from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka, and Riyan Private Limited in the Maldives. The objective of the workshops was to validate the findings of the ongoing BRCA for each country and discuss the priority of recommended actions to further strengthen building regulatory framework. 

Key Takeaways of the Workshops

Supporting Resilience in the Maldives

The BRCA Maldives Action Planning Workshop was chaired by Mr. Mohamed Aslam, Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure, and Mr. Mohammed Ali, Minister of State for National Planning and Infrastructure from the Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure (MNPI). A wide group of stakeholders participated, including the Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of National Defense Force, Ministry of Islamic Affairs, local organisations, such as the Association of Civil Engineers, MNACI, Architects Association, Contractors Association, and international organizations, such as UNDP and the Maldives Red Crescent.

“Standards need to be maintained; we cannot compromise the safety of the public. Regulatory mechanisms must be strengthened, and I have no doubt that this workshop provides an opportunity to develop better regulations in our country.” -- Mr. Mohamed Aslam, Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure.

The workshop concluded with a focus on a series of prioritized recommendations:

  • Completing and implementing the National Development Plan (2019-2028), including policies for accessible, safe, and technically-sound buildings.
  • Developing compliance documents to implement the Building Code of Maldives, strengthening its disaster risk considerations, and improving hazard data collection to inform code development.
  • Supporting implementation mechanisms, such as capacity building for technical officials, developing an electronic permitting system, institutional strengthening, and streamlining the fragmented approval processes.

Effective legislation for Sri Lanka

The BRCA Sri Lanka Action Planning Workshop was chaired by Dr. Asiri Karunawardena from the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO), Archt. H.K. Balachandra from the Construction Industry Development Authority (CIDA) and Eng. Champa Alahakoon from the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs. Workshop was attended by key government officials from Urban Development Authority, CIDA, NBRO, the Disaster Management Centre, and the Colombo Municipal Council.

“Implementation on the ground is key. Open, transparent and inclusive processes lead to successful code development. Throughout the process, wide consultations and involvement of various groups are necessary including the private sector and citizen groups. In addition, the use of technology and managing data, will contribute to effective implementation.” -- Eng. Champa Alahakoon, from the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Culture Affairs.

As an output of the workshop, following priority actions were identified.

  • Developing and implementing the new Sri Lanka Building Code, locally relevant in terms of hazards, design, and construction practices.
  • Reducing gaps and overlaps in legislation, regulation, and institutional mandates while strengthening institutional capacities.
  • Improving the building approval process and enhance the capacity of local authorities through training programmes.

Way Forward  

The outcome of the BRCA Maldives Action Planning workshop will inform the World Bank’s evolving operations in DRM and urban sector in Maldives.  - (i) the ongoing Development Policy Financing with Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option and Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (ii) the proposed Maldives Urban Development and Resilience Project .

Findings of the workshops will provide a guiding reference for implementable concrete actions in future. After the BRCAs, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, with support of the World Bank, will continue developing effective legislation to achieve more resilient and safer built environment.