Natural hazards and their impacts have severe consequences. The poorest and the economically and socially vulnerable are those most at risk. With the growing threat of climate change, hazards are largely unavoidable. However, hazards only become disasters when coping mechanisms of communities are exceeded and they are unable to manage their impacts.
Disasters in any one place can have far-reaching impacts in an increasingly interconnected world. An upward trend in losses is likely to gain momentum with a changing climate and rapid urbanization. In this backdrop decisions about natural disasters have negative short-run fiscal impacts and longer-term consequences for economic growth, development and poverty-reduction. It further constitutes a shock to public finances because of their impact on output and the need for relief and reconstruction.
In the recent past Sri Lanka has been experiencing an increase in natural disasters. Its frequency and impacts are alarming, considerably affecting the economy and development gains. Investments in development need to consider long-term resilience. The tremendous losses disasters could reverberate have been taken seriously by policy makers with the ministry of disaster management taking a lead with relevant stakeholders. Whilst immediate relief and response take center stage, long term disaster mitigation and resilience requires mechanisms for institutionalization across sectors and communities.
An integrated post-flood assessment conducted in May 2010 by the Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka revealed that the combined value of damages and losses in the five districts of Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Galle and Matara amounted to 5,059 million rupees. The impact of disaster was unevenly distributed in geographic or spatial terms. The value of combined damages and losses in the western province (3,091 million rupees) was higher than the southern province (1,960 million rupees). However, the impact of disaster in the western province is 0.15% of the western province GDP while in the southern province the effect was 0.36% of the provincial GDP.