The central region of Sri Lanka is mountainous, with highly fractured and folded basement rock overlain by residual soil and colluvium. Topographically steep slopes and geologically weak strata are the main natural contributors to landslides, with severe, intense rainfall, exacerbated by climate change, as a known trigger. Increased human activities and development in areas at risk, which lack appropriate or adequate regulations, together with the lack of national standards for climate resilient infrastructure, also contribute to the increased risk of landslide disasters.
Landslides, slope failures and rock falls have become increasingly frequent and severe, seriously affecting communities in the hilly central region of Sri Lanka since 1970s, causing loss of life, damage to infrastructure, destruction of property and impacts on livelihoods and local economy. Landslides also have a devastating impact on forests, wildlife and ecosystems, particularly water, further weakening the country’s resilience to climate change. In response, the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) was established by the government in 1984 as the technical institute to manage landslide disasters in the country.
Thirteen major districts have been identified as landslide-prone areas, which make up nearly 30 percent of the total land area of Sri Lanka. Their population accounts for nearly 38 percent of the national population. The districts together contributed around 44 percent of GDP in 2017, from agriculture, including tea, rubber, coconuts, paddy and spices; and tourism associated with the area’s cultural heritage and natural beauty.
This project is among the top priorities of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) given the emergency nature and the devastating impacts of landslides on people’s lives, infrastructure and the environment. The Vision 2025 Strategy Document of the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources & Disaster Management (MIWRDM) supports building a “Safer Sri Lanka” to facilitate the prosperity and dignity of human life through effective prevention and mitigation of disasters caused by natural and human-induced hazards in Sri Lanka. This project will address the national priority to lower the risk of landslides and decrease their severity in order to minimize loss of life and economic and social damage to affected communities. It will reduce the need for government spending on rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged buildings and infrastructure facilities, resettlement, disaster relief and emergency services. Additionally, support for enhancement of landslide-related policy and regulation under this project will improve infrastructure sustainability and resilience to climate change in an area where natural beauty is particularly important to Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. The project is well aligned with AIIB’s strategic priorities, particularly with regard to promotion of sustainable infrastructure, green investment and resilience.