UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reducing the vulnerability of the urban poor to climatic change : experiences from Colombo and Dhaka Kananke Arachchilage, Kumudu Jayaratne


In many megacities of the developing world the combination of rapid population growth and demand for land results in people settling in areas prone to natural hazards. Dhaka, Bangladesh and Colombo, Sri Lanka are no exceptions. This thesis discusses the challenges faced as a result of seal level rise and increased flooding, and solutions realized in urban areas of low and middle-income nations. It attempts to find solutions to reduce the vulnerability of these communities in context to housing and infrastructure. These regions contain a third of the world’s population, and in addition to having significant social and economic difficulties they also face high risks from volatile climatic conditions. Overall much of the urban populations in the developing world have no adequate infrastructure and live in poor quality housing. The initial part of the thesis analyzes the vulnerability of slum dwellers in Dhaka and Colombo by highlighting the major factors behind their sensitivity to floods and their ability to adapt to post disaster conditions. The low-income communities in South Asia have achieved successful innovations in disaster- risk reduction. The two case studies of Halgaha Kubura in Colombo and Korail in Dhaka exemplify these successful innovations and, as such, represent the primary research of this thesis. These case studies demonstrate the importance of understanding hazards, socioeconomic, resource availability, vulnerability, social networks, and current construction of housing and infrastructure. Transect mapping is used as a tool to map these locations, through which significant lessons can be drawn. Knowledge of existing coping strategies for disaster risk reduction can help to strengthen planning strategies of adaptation to climate change elsewhere. Finally, though these slum dwellers have their own adaptation and coping strategies to overcome the crisis, they are not a viable long-term solution. The goal of the thesis is to build an Adaptation and Disaster Resilient Design Guideline by extracting significant lessons from the mapped locations while taking into account the current strategies developed by flood reduction programs.

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