Indian Ocean Tsunami Reports From the Field -- Part 1
Studying the Tsunami Damage, Earth Institute Fellows See Ways to Mitigate
April 29, 2005
Matara, Sri Lanka
By Guillermo Franco, Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Bijan Khazai and J. Carter Ingram
We are four Earth Institute Fellows in Sri Lanka to study areas affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami and identify opportunities to help the community mitigate damage from future natural disasters.
civil engineer with a focus on hazards and risk research
Guillermo Franco, civil engineer with a focus on hazards and risk research
Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, ecologist
J. Carter Ingram, ecologist
Seeing the damage firsthand has been shocking. The majority of the coastline is covered in the remnants of everyday life. It has been difficult for us to comprehend that the ocean could have caused so much devastation in such a short time — and with such little warning.
We realize that the effects of the tsunami could have been ameliorated in at least a few ways.
Guidelines Were Not Enforced
Sri Lanka’s Coastal Zone Management Plan had created a 125-meter buffer zone along the coast where construction was not permitted. These guidelines, however, were not enforced. Many poor, landless people settled in these areas, building vulnerable single-story masonry houses.
Following the tsunami, the government decreed and has thus far partially enforced a coastal buffer zone of 100 meters from the shoreline along the western and southern coasts as well as a 200 meter buffer zone for the eastern coast.
Further muddying the issue is the fact that people who were able to repair and rebuild before the enforcement of the buffer zone have been allowed to stay in their houses.