Preparing the Next Generation of Environmental Managers for Nature-based Flood Management

BY EDM | 11 SEP 2017
On August 29, 2017 Dr. Missaka Hettiarachchi, with the WWF Environment and Disaster Management program, along with Sashan Rodrigo led a group of environmental management students from the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka through an hour-long flood management scenario based simulation exercise. The exercise was presented as a part of the disaster management portion of the course led by Professor Deepthi Wickramsinghe. The simulation and discussion helped facilitate critical thinking and learning around the opportunities surrounding natural and nature-based flood management at a watershed scale. Earlier this year, Sri Lanka experienced its worst flooding in over a decade from a severe rain event which affected more than half a million people.

During the simulation, students selected a combination of nonstructural, natural and nature-based, and hard engineering flood management methods to address riverine and localized flash flooding in a hypothetical city. This exercise highlighted real-world flood management challenges such as working with multiple stakeholders, accounting for climate change scenarios, and social and economic factors affecting urban flood risk. Throughout the exercise, emphasis was placed on the importance of connections between upstream and downstream land uses and flood risk in the watershed.

After thoughtful deliberation and discussion that weighed the pros and cons of each method students presented their conclusions to the rest of the group. According to Dr. Hettiarachchi, “The students had good basic knowledge of concepts such as hazard, risk and vulnerability. However, through the exercise they came to appreciate how flood risk is distributed across a watershed, and the upstream-downstream and urban-rural links. They also said that the simulation helped them to understand how combining hard, soft and non-structural methods across a watershed can vastly improve flood risk reduction.”

The simulation exercise was developed as a part of the Natural and Nature-based Flood Management: A Green Guide (Flood Green Guide) training program. Simulation exercises can be useful training tools to help learners understand the consequences of their decisions in a safe environment and receive immediate feedback about the choices they make.

For more information about the Flood Green Guide training program and additional resources visit





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