Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
27 Jun 2008
 | 27 Jun 2008

Integrated approach for coastal hazards and risks in Sri Lanka

M. Garcin, J. F. Desprats, M. Fontaine, R. Pedreros, N. Attanayake, S. Fernando, C. H. E. R. Siriwardana, U. De Silva, and B. Poisson

Abstract. The devastating impact of the tsunami of 26 December 2004 on the shores of the Indian Ocean recalled the importance of knowledge and the taking into account of coastal hazards. Sri Lanka was one of the countries most affected by this tsunami (e.g. 30 000 dead, 1 million people homeless and 70% of the fishing fleet destroyed). Following this tsunami, as part of the French post-tsunami aid, a project to establish a Geographical Information System (GIS) on coastal hazards and risks was funded. This project aims to define, at a pilot site, a methodology for multiple coastal hazards assessment that might be useful for the post-tsunami reconstruction and for development planning. This methodology could be applied to the whole coastline of Sri Lanka.

The multi-hazard approach deals with very different coastal processes in terms of dynamics as well as in terms of return period. The first elements of this study are presented here. We used a set of tools integrating a GIS, numerical simulations and risk scenario modelling. While this action occurred in response to the crisis caused by the tsunami, it was decided to integrate other coastal hazards into the study. Although less dramatic than the tsunami these remain responsible for loss of life and damage. Furthermore, the establishment of such a system could not ignore the longer-term effects of climate change on coastal hazards in Sri Lanka.

This GIS integrates the physical and demographic data available in Sri Lanka that is useful for assessing the coastal hazards and risks. In addition, these data have been used in numerical modelling of the waves generated during periods of monsoon as well as for the December 2004 tsunami. Risk scenarios have also been assessed for test areas and validated by field data acquired during the project. The results obtained from the models can be further integrated into the GIS and contribute to its enrichment and to help in better assessment and mitigation of these risks.

The coastal-hazards-and-risks GIS coupled with modelling thus appears to be a very useful tool that can constitute the skeleton of a coastal zone management system. Decision makers will be able to make informed choices with regards to hazards during reconstruction and urban planning projects.