Empowering local governments in making cities resilient to disasters

Chamindi Malalgoda (School of the Built Environment, The University of Salford, Salfod, UK)

International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1759-5908

Article publication date: 9 February 2015



Malalgoda, C. (2015), "Empowering local governments in making cities resilient to disasters", International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Vol. 6 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJDRBE-12-2014-0078



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Empowering local governments in making cities resilient to disasters

Article Type: Doctoral abstract From: International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, Volume 6, Issue 1

Thesis title: Empowering local governments in making cities resilient to disasters

Degree: PhD

Candidate name: Chamindi Ishara Malalgoda

Department: Centre for Disaster Resilience

College/university: University of Salford

Country: UK

Completion date: November 204

Language of the thesis: English

Thesis supervisor(s): Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga & Professor Richard Haigh

Postal address: Centre for Disaster Resilience, University of Salford, Maxwell Building 4th Floor, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WT, UK

Contact email: mailto:c.i.malalgoda@salford.ac.uk

Keywords Local government; Empowerment; Risk reduction; Built environment

Thesis abstract

Urban areas are growing rapidly all over the world, particularly in the developing nations. As a result of rapid urbanisation, cities are becoming extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Thus, it has become necessary to make cities more resilient to disasters. The built environment is a core element in every city and facilitates the everyday lives of human beings. Disasters can have a huge impact on the built environment, and failure of the built environment can create significant impacts on the social and economic activities of the entire nation. Thus, when moving towards safer cities, it is important to develop the built environment in such a way that it can adapt to the threats posed by natural disasters. Various stakeholders need to become involved in the process of making disaster-resilient built environments, and local governments have a critical role to play, as they are the closest government body to the local community. It is the duty of the local government to enhance the well-being of the local community and protect them from nature- and human-induced hazards. This study, therefore, has recognised municipal councils to be key players in this exercise and has highlighted the invaluable role of municipal councils in leading to safer built environments in cities. Even though there is growing concern among researchers and practitioners regarding the lead role required of local government in making disaster-resilient built environments, several issues have been reported about the inadequate contribution made by local governments in implementing disaster risk reduction initiatives. Therefore, this research, aims to develop a framework to empower local governments to make cities resilient to disasters in the context of the built environment.

The research adopts case studies as its research strategy and investigates three cities in Sri Lanka which are potentially vulnerable to disasters. A number of interviews with experts have also been conducted to supplement the case study findings. Based on empirical investigation, it was evident that Sri Lankan municipalities face a number of challenges in their efforts to create safer built environments; therefore, the study proposes a number of recommendations for empowering Sri Lankan municipalities to lead the endeavours to build disaster-resilient built environments. Nevertheless, it is important to note that municipal councils cannot work in isolation, and, for them to be effectively engaged, they require the assistance of central government and other related government organisations, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, private sector and the local community. Therefore, the study reveals the importance of defining the scope and responsibility of each of these organisations and community groups towards making a disaster-resilient built environment within the city under municipal jurisdiction. The key findings suggest that central-level agencies need to take the lead in making policy-level decisions and initiating necessary amendments to existing policy to make municipalities responsible for creating disaster-resilient built environments within cities. In doing so, it is important to provide solutions to prevailing issues such as financial and technical capabilities and legal authority. The findings further revealed the importance of consulting municipal councils in all decisions made at the national level in relation to municipal territories. Finally, all relevant development plans, risk maps, disaster-resilient planning, construction and operation guidelines and resilient land use practices need to be integrated into existing building and planning regulations, and proper coordination, monitoring and control of mechanisms have to be established and have skilled leadership to ensure compliance with regulations.

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