Salford
International Conference on Building Resilience 2011
Host Country

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Sri Lanka is an island situated in the Indian Ocean, at the base of the Indian Sub-Continent, 880 km north of the equator. It is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country with a diverse and rich culture. It has also been subject to several large scale disasters in recent years, including the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and a civil war spanning several decades. As such, it provides an ideal setting to explore the challenge of creating resilient communities and cities.

  • Geography: Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) is about half the size of England and lies close to the southern tip of India and near the equator. From the coast, the land rises to a central massif more than 1500 m above sea level. The climate is hot and humid - monsoon from May to September and the north-east monsoon from November to March: rainfall, particularly in the south-west, is heavy.
    Sri Lanka was severely affected by the tsunami on 26 December 2004, which killed some 40,000 people and displaced 400 – 500 thousand people along two thirds of the north-east, south and south-west coastline. Half the fishing fleet was destroyed, and a quarter of hotels in the affected areas sustained serious damage.
  • Government: Unicameral Parliament with Executive presidency
  • Area: 25,332 sq miles (65,610 sq km)
  • Population: (2006 est.): 20,222,240 (growth rate: 0.8%); birth rate: 15.5/1000; infant mortality rate: 14.0/1000; life expectancy: 73.4; density per sq mi: 809
  • Commercial Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Colombo
  • Legislative and judicial capital: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte
  • Main exports: Clothing and textiles, tea, gems, rubber, coconuts
  • Languages: Sinhala 74% (official and national), Tamil 18% (national), other 8%; English is widely spoken and is studied as a compulsory secondary language in school.
  • People: 73.94% Sinhalese, 12.7% Tamil, 7.1% Muslim, 5.5% Hill Tamil, and 1.5% other
  • Languages: Sinhalese, Tamil, English
  • Religion(s): Buddhist (69.3%); Hindu (15.5%); Muslim (7.5%); Christianity (6.9%), other (0.8%)
  • Currency: Rupee, divided into 100 cents
  • Literacy rate: 92% (2003 est.) The highest in South Asia and second highest in Asia.
  • Member of Commonwealth of Nations
  • Climate: Sri Lanka has a pleasant tropical climate: the average temperature of the low lands ranges between 25-30 degrees Celsius.
  • GDP: Sri Lanka's Per Capita GDP is presently US $1,160 (World Bank, 2006) - the highest in South Asia

History and culture:

Sri Lanka History is incident full. Being an important trade port and oasis of Nature for sea farers of China, Arabia and Europe of the ancient times. Sri Lanka has a fascinating documented history over 2500 years of Civilization. The most valuable source of knowledge for the legends and historical heritage of Sri Lanka is the Mahavamsa (Great Genealogy or Dynasty), a chronicle compiled in Pali, in the sixth century. Please visit  http://www.info.lk/srilanka/srilankahistory/index.htm for more details on history of Sri Lanka.

Special features:

Sri Lanka is one of the first five gem bearing countries in the world (Other four gem bearing countries are Brazil, Mayanmar, South Africa and Thailand) The principle gems of Sri Lanka are rubies and sapphires while alexandrite, though not so profuse, is found only in Sri Lanka and in the ural mountains of the former Soviet Union.

Getting there:

Flying is the only way to enter Sri Lanka. The main gate way to Sri Lanka is through the Bandaranakaya International Airport. Bandaranaike International Airport is Sri Lanka's only international airport. It is located in Katunayake, 35 km north of Colombo. It is administered by Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. It is the hub of SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka. In recent years, various expansion projects have been undertaken at Bandaranaike International Airport. A pier with eight aero-bridges opened in November 2005, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.

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December 2004 Tsunami

Sri Lanka is one of the worst affected countries from the recent Asian Tsunami disaster. At least 40,000 people are known to have died, and thousands more are still missing. The number of homeless people is put at between 800,000 and 1,000,000, from a population of nineteen million. Apart form these direct impacts, the recent Tsunami has influenced the normal lifestyle of the Sri Lankan community through the discontinuance of several livelihoods such as fishing, farming, tourism and handicrafts-related activities. Major infrastructure and facilities have also been destroyed or disrupted, including public and commercial transport services, electricity and water supplies, drainage and sewerage facilities, telecommunication services, and schools. Even though the immediate priorities of the post-Tsunami recovery activities were centred on the provision of basic requirements such as food, shelter and medicines to affected communities, the necessity to recreate public and commercial facilities destroyed during the disaster cannot be ignored when considering long term recovery measures.

Like other affected countries, post-Tsunami rehabilitation in Sri Lanka is operating in a difficult context; among the most important factors is the pre-existence of very high densities of unplanned settlements in the Southern part of Sri Lanka with the majority of construction not observing some of the critical building standards. To add to this, the post-Tsunami rehabilitation operation has been affected due to weak local government institutions with poor response capacities to address the needs of such a magnitude. This is mainly because, before the Tsunami, Sri Lanka was known to be a safe haven where outrages of nature scarcely occurred except for occasional floods and landslides during the rainy seasons.

The responsibility for building capacity in accordance with the latest requirements largely resides within the HE institutions in Sri Lanka. In order to achieve the desired capacity and the expertise for public and commercial facilities re-creation and long term maintenance, teaching, training and research will have be strengthened. Sri Lankan Institutions who act as joint hosts are located within the Tsunami affected regions.

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Sri Lankan Civil War

Conflict has featured significantly in Sri Lanka’s recent history and social development, most recently in the North and East of the country. 30% of the territory and 15% of the population have been devastated by the conflict-related violence caused by the clashes between the government’s armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While the war came to an end with the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, over 100,000 are estimated to have been killed and over a million displaced. Income levels and human development indicators for these areas are among the lowest in Sri Lanka . The needs assessment document of the government estimates poverty in the Northern Province to be 37%, compared to a national average of 15%.

In Sri Lanka, infrastructure has suffered from damage and neglect during the war and an absence of new investment. The vital role of infrastructure in serving human endeavours means that when elements of it are damaged or destroyed, the ability of society to function – economically and socially – is severely disrupted . Yet, with the cessation of violence, these areas are attracting new populations who are now forced to live without basic services and facilities, exposing themselves, particularly women and children, to health hazards and unhygienic circumstances. Due to migration, displacement and mistrust, communities need to be rebuilt physically, socially and economically. Economic infrastructure is an enabler to economic growth and a prerequisite for social infrastructure. Relative deprivation of basic physical infrastructures is another dimension of human poverty faced by the North and East populace. Whilst 56% of households in Sri Lanka have electricity, only 30% in the North and East do. The reconstruction of damaged and inadequate physical infrastructure will be essential to reduce poverty and sustain long term conflict transformation in the region. Physical infrastructure has the potential to connect or divide. Peace and development are inter-related, and in war-torn societies a lasting peace is considered inconceivable without addressing the problem of reintegration of people dislocated by war and insecurity. Reconstructing physical infrastructure after a war can help in the peace building process through restoring dignity and promoting conflict sensitive approaches.

Image: The long civil war in Sri Lanka has left communities divided. Reconstruction programmes must help to reconnect those affected by conflict.