UNDP provides financial assistance to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment

26 Oct 2009

The Government’s 180-Day Plan for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province was launched in July this year. This six-month recovery plan focuses on restoration of basic infrastructure and resettlement of the Internally Displaced People.

To ensure though that development is sustainable it is important to incorporate environment and disaster concerns in the overall strategy. The lessons from the tsunami reconstruction and resettlement experience point to the importance of a prior assessment in order to avoid the now-obvious planning mistakes. Post-tsunami, large resettlement schemes were created on lands unsuitable for habitat, in areas with inadequate water supply, and on lands exposed to seasonal floods, droughts or land-erosion. Gaps in the planning process adversely impacted the resettlement process and resumption of livelihoods and productive employment for many.

Careful planning of new townships and human settlements of the North will support smoother resettlement, better social cohesion, and faster resumption of livelihoods. Plans for townships and infrastructure development should be based on sound assessments of the carrying capacity of natural resources available- land, water, forests and minerals. A resettlement process that is informed through scientific knowledge gathering and vulnerability assessment, will avoid exposing investments in reconstruction and livelihoods to risks.

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Disaster Management Centre (DMC) of the Ministry of Disaster Management & Human Rights has taken the lead in carrying out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and a Risk reduction plan for the Northern Province. The effort is expected to integrate environment and disaster concerns into the planning agenda. UNDP Sri Lanka has provided the financial assistance for this effort.

The assessment was also followed by a high-level meeting last month which included more than 18 agencies. Presentations on the results of the environment and disaster impact assessments were followed by discussions on the development plans for the Northern Province. The meeting was facilitated by UNDP’s Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction Unit.