Flood Green Guide Training for Sri Lanka's Kelani River Watershed

BY EDM | 06 JUN 2018
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Flood risk managers use the Flood Green Guide to protect communities in Sri Lanka's Kelani River watershed.
It's monsoon season in Sri Lanka, and as the country braces for the coming months, some people are looking much further down the line.

Last year brought the country's worst flooding in more than a decade, and just a few weeks ago authorities warned residents to watch out for floods and landslides after heavy rains prompted spill gates to be opened around the island. With these extreme events in mind -- along with the worst drought Sri Lanka has seen in decades, which occurred just before last year's floods -- flood managers, engineers and environmental experts gathered in Colombo, the country's capital, to develop flood management strategies for an increasingly unpredictable future.

About 30 experts from the fields of hydraulic and civil engineering, environmental management, forestry, public administration, and sociology gathered for the daylong training to discuss how they can integrate their multisector work to better manage flooding in the Kelani River watershed.

The Kelani River is Sri Lanka's second largest river basin. It supports a host of activities, including hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water provision. But when the river floods like it has in recent years, it severely affects the communities around it, taking lives and livelihoods and destroying infrastructure.

Dr. Missaka Hettiarachchi, with the WWF Environment and Disaster Management program, led the training with Dr. Upul Subasinghe of Sri Jayawardenepura University. The event was organized by the Climate Resilience Improvement Project and the Irrigation Department of Sri Lanka in partnership with WWF, Sri Jayawardenepura University and Kothalawala Defense University.

Together, Hettiarachchi and Subasinghe introduced attendees to the management methods in the Flood Green Guide, more formally known as Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide. The guide, which WWF created in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, illustrates a range of flood management methods, including policy and "green" methods like wetland restoration, drainage path restoration and soil conservation.

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The trainers led participants through simulations in which they had to choose the most effective methods from the guide based on their own knowledge of the geography, social structures and management risks of the Kelani watershed. The challenge in making these choices comes in large part from the fact that the Kelani River is 145 kilometers long, so a choice that benefits one community along the river could cause problems for another one downstream.

That said, both the trainers and participants felt the day was successful in encouraging their different fields to begin influencing Sri Lanka's environmental polices, infrastructure development and watershed management together.

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