EPICentre research incorporated into Maldives government policy
6 January 2020
A recent Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment (BRCA) of the Maldives, led by members of EPICentre from UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), has successfully influenced Maldives government policy on developing natural disaster resilient communities.
Recommendations from the BRCA were referenced in the Resilient Communities section of the Maldives government's Strategic Action Plan (SAP) 2019 - 2023, policies and directives from which were formally rolled out into day-to-day operations from Oct 2019. Read below to find out further details of the importance of and background to EPICentre's BRCA project.
A key component of the resilience of any country to extreme natural hazards is the ability of its built environment to provide life-safety, continuity of shelter and livelihoods after disastrous events. Such a resilient built environment can only be achieved through the correct implementation and enforcement of building regulations that appropriately account for local natural and chronic hazards. This requires a strong building regulatory framework that provides the legal and policy backbone to land use planning and construction, which is regularly updated, and which is supported by institutions that help form, train and accredit professionals in the construction industry.
As a Small Island Developing State (SID), the Maldives (officially known as the Republic of Maldives) belongs to the forefront group of nations most vulnerable to climate change and its impacts. The high vulnerability of the country to climate change manifests from the geographical and physical characteristics of the islands, including their small size, low elevation, and wide spatial distribution. Climate-induced extreme weather disrupts regular supply of these essential commodities to remote islands, while stockpiling for emergencies also remains extremely challenging in smaller islands. Other climate-induced vulnerabilities are extremely high in the Maldives, especially due to natural habitat loss, depletion of water resources, and issues related to food security. The capacity of the islands to respond locally to disasters is very low, owing in part to the high dependency on imported food, fuel and basic commodities.
EPICentre’s Maldives project, focused on improving building regulations, and backed by the Centre’s wealth of resilience expertise, therefore came at a much-needed time. Established in 2007, EPICentre is an interdisciplinary Centre which investigates risks to society, the built and the natural environments from natural hazards. EPICentre members involved in the Maldives BRCA project, which was funded by the World Bank, were Co-Director and Professor of Earthquake Engineering Tiziana Rossetto, Research Associates Dr David Robinson and Dr Marco Baiguera, and Honorary Professor John Twigg. Prof Rossetto led the project, with Prof Twigg, Dr Robinson and Dr Baiguera contributing to the research and analysis, plus helping to conduct stakeholder workshops. They were aided by Maldives urban planning and governance experts Fathimath Rasheed and Aishath Abdulla, of Riyan Ltd.; Thomas Mouiller, Keiko Sakoda, Theresa Abrassart, Priyanka Dissanayake and Suranga Kahandawa of the World Bank, and Prof Priyan Dias and Suresh Shanaka of the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.
The Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment (BRCA) began in January 2019, and included a kick-off workshop in the Maldives in March last year, followed by an Action Planning workshop and stakeholder interviews in July. The project involved analysing the legal framework and institutional capacities of Maldives’ building regulation, the technical content of building codes and standards (particularly in their relation to natural hazard risk), and an assessment of the regulation implementation challenges and opportunities. The final BRCA report was submitted to the World Bank in early October 2019.
Prof Tiziana Rossetto commented how the project has been
an incredible learning experience. The stakeholder engagement in the Maldives was exceptional, and we are incredibly thankful to all those that participated in the workshops and provided us insight and feedback, representing different government bodies, professional associations, industry and academia.”
Development of legislation for building regulation has been influenced by political and constitutional changes in the Maldives. A stronger and more wide-ranging legislative framework is one consequence of the country’s shift from highly centralised undemocratic governance, inherited from the period of monarchical rule, towards democratic government. While this BRCA was being conducted, 13 new regulations associated with the Construction Act were issued by the Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure, including a Building Code for the Maldives. There are still some critical components that need to be promulgated, such as the reference standards (known as compliance documents in the Maldives) for the Building Code, however the Act and regulations form a framework on which to build a strong building regulatory capacity. Furthermore, a National Disaster Management Act was issued in 2015, which is now being implemented through the recently established (in 2018) National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The BRCA, therefore, came at a critical stage in building regulation development in the Maldives and at a time when there is already a strong awareness of the need for more resilient and sustainable construction and urban development.
The Maldives government’s SAP, recently released by President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Sohil, is a central policy framework and planning document that will guide the overall development direction of the Maldives for the next five years, consolidating the current Government’s manifesto pledges with existing sectoral priorities. The SAP serves as the main implementation and monitoring tool to track the progress of governmental policy delivery and development priorities.
The SAP Resilient Communities policies, designed to strengthen adaptation actions and opportunities, and build climate-resilient infrastructure and communities to address current and future vulnerabilities, reference the following BRCA recommendations:
- Formulate the National Planning Act to regulate procedures and clarify roles and responsibilities.
- Review and revise the Construction Act to include the tourism sector.
- Formulate compliance documents articulating clear reference standards to supplement the building code.
- Develop guidelines for the inclusion of hazard-resilient features in low engineered buildings.
- Formulate and enforce Land Reclamation Regulations.
The inclusion of the EPICentre team’s recommendations in the SAP demonstrates the ability of UCL research to influence international government building and urban development regulation.
Please note, some links lead to external sites.
- UCL EPICentre website
- UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering website
- Prof Tiziana Rossetto CEGE profile
- Dr David Robinson CEGE profile
- Prof John Twigg CEGE profile
- Dr Marco Baiguera CEGE profile
- Maldives Government Strategic Action Plan
- The World Bank website
- University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka website
- CEGE Research in Focus: EPICentre news article
- Caption: An aerial shot of Kinbidhoo Island, located in the central Maldives.
- Credit: Saud Edum on Unsplash.
With special thanks to Dr David Robinson for his help with this article.