Chathuranganee, Jayakody (2019) Planning and Designing Public Open Spaces (POS) as a Strategy to Enhance Coastal Cities’ Resilience to Tsunamis in Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Public open spaces (POS) in cities are considered as an asset in enhancing cities’ sustainability contributing to its’ three pillars; economic, social and environmental. Nevertheless, the importance of POS for disaster resilience is less recognised and remains under-rehearsed in the urban planning context. Therefore, there is significant importance of investigating potentials of POS for disaster resilience. Further, addressing this research need in the context of coastal cities is even more critical due to the increasing vulnerabilities of coastal cities as a result of rapid urbanisation and growing population in coastal cities. However, the potentials of POS to improve the disaster resilience in coastal cities may differ from one disaster to another. Tsunami is one of the coastal hazards that can be considered as infrequent, nonetheless extremely destructive. Further, the literature suggests that the physical intervention in cities with the sole purpose of Tsunami disaster resilience, often fail to sustain in the long run due to the infrequency nature of this hazard. Therefore, there is an imperative need to increase the inherent capacity of the city to resist, absorb, accommodate and recover from the effects of a Tsunami through multipurpose planning interventions. Accordingly, ‘exploring the potentials of POS to increase the Tsunami disaster resilience through multipurpose planning interventions’ can be identified as a seldom addressed research need. Addressing this research gap, this research study attempts to answer the research question ‘How to plan and design POS as a strategy to enhance the coastal cities’ resilience to Tsunamis?’. Further, the answer to this research problem is focused down to the Sri Lankan context, as Sri Lanka is one of the Tsunami prone countries fronting many challenges such as rapid urbanisation in coastal cities, and degradation of the natural and built environment due to the unplanned development activities.

The research study adopted the Grounded theory method as the research strategy. Unstructured interviews were used as the primary data collection technique covering a wide range of interview groups in Sri Lanka including Tsunami affected communities, disaster resilience experts, urban planners, sociologists, civil engineers, and coastal planners. Further, these interviews were supplemented by document review and visual images. Accordingly, grounded theory inductive coding procedure was used to analyse the transcripts, notes, maps and documents related to the interviews conducted.

The findings reveal that there is a significant potential to use POS to enhance the coastal cities’ resilience to Tsunamis as an emergency evacuation directing point, as a primary place for emergency rescue, as an agent for temporary sheltering, as a facilitator for Tsunami disaster mitigation and as a mediator to provide Tsunami awareness. Further, to harness these identified potentials, research findings suggest a framework with five core principles, three types of POS, thirteen specific strategies and ten generic strategies to plan and design POS as an approach to enhance coastal cities’ resilience to Tsunamis in Sri Lanka. This framework is developed closely related to the data in the Sri Lankan context. Therefore, urban planners and urban designers in Sri Lanka can use and practice this framework when planning and designing POS to enhance coastal cities’ resilience to Tsunamis. The proposed framework will benefit the policymakers in Sri Lanka when preparing policies related to POS. Further, the findings can be adopted by other countries after the context-specific alterations are identified in the framework.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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