COUNTRIES DEVASTATED by the Boxing Day tsunami should create natural buffer zones along their coasts.
They should also rebuild coastal communities in less exposed areas to protect against future disasters, according to a United Nations report.
The report urges affected nations to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, which has committed to establishing a no-build zone up to 200m from its high tide line.
Sri Lanka offers some of the best evidence that intact coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs and healthy sand dunes, helped buffer aggressive waves, says the report by the UN Environmental Program.
It has found that most of Yala and Bundala National Parks were spared because vegetated coastal sand dunes dissipated the tsunami's energy.
The worst damage was where mining and damage to coral reefs had been heavy in the past.
'Intact coral reefs, vegetated dune systems, deep stands of mangrove forest and other natural barriers appear to have afforded significant protection to the coast beyond them, ' says the report.