The Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka (DMC) with the support of the World Bank has been developing the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) to support evidence-based methods to better plan for, mitigate, and respond to natural disasters.
Understanding Sri Lanka’s Risks
Since 2000, flood and drought events have cumulatively affected more than 13 million people across Sri Lanka. Regular flooding, drought, and landslides are natural hazards that threaten the long-term growth and development of the country. In Sri Lanka, nearly $500 million in unplanned expenditures resulting from flooding in 2010 and 2011 has strained government budgets and required reallocation from other planned development priorities. The impacts of these events are growing due to increased development and climate change, both of which put more assets at risk.
To enable better disaster risk modeling, the Government of Sri Lanka partnered with GFDRR, UNDP and OCHA on the development of an OpenDRI program in November 2012. This branch of the initiative focused on the South Asia Region and was dubbed the Open Cities project. A component of the OpenDRI Open Cities mission in Sri Lanka was to collate data around hazards and exposure and prepare them to be uploaded into a GeoNode which serves as a disaster risk information platform.
Working with the DMC, the National Survey Department, Department of the Census and Statistics, Nation Building Research Organization, Information and Communication Technology Agency, Department of Irrigation, several universities and the international partners, the OpenDRI team supported DMC with the aggregation of data that had been stored in static PDFs, old paper maps and several databases onto the GeoNode.
The data on the GeoNode is currently available to authorized users in the OpenDRI network, in preparation for launch. This transitional state is typical for open data projects, as the partnership reviews data with the parties and affirms that it is ready for release to the open public. Some layers may restrict access only to authorized users.
The project has also built technical capacity and awareness in Sri Lanka through training sessions on open data and crowdsourced mapping in Batticaloa city and Gampaha District. As a result of the Open Data for Resilience Initiative, government and academic volunteers have mapped over 130,000 buildings and 1000 kilometers of roadways on the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap database. This enables the country to plan ahead and be prepared for future disaster and climate risks. It also helps planning during disaster responses: the data was used to assess flooding impacts in real time and direct government resources during the May 2016 floods in Gampaha district.