03/24/2016, 10.45
SRI LANKA
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Colombo: Via Crucis of Catholics and fishermen against Port City project

by Melani Manel Perera

About 500, religious and faithful, march through the streets of Negombo. The families of fishermen point out that the recent resumption of construction of the port project has already led to the death of the fish. The vicar general notes that "the Church in Sri Lanka is not against development, but against those projects that, in the name of development, destroy nature and fishermen’s livelihood".

 

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Priests, nuns and the families of Catholic fishermen attended a Way of the Cross through the streets of Negombo, north of Colombo. Along with the memory of the Passion of Christ, they also protested against the resumption of the port city project in Colombo.

According to some fishing families in fact, the layer of cement and other materials used for construction have already led to the disappearance of some species of marine life. The death of fish seriously undermines the livelihoods of the local population, mostly employed in the fishing industry.

Fr. Patrick Perera, vicar general of the deanery of Negombo, told AsiaNews: "The Church in Sri Lanka is not opposed to the development of the country, but rejects the projects that, in the name of development, destroying the fishermen's lives and nature" .

The procession marched yesterday afternoon along a 2.5 km route. About 500 worshipers gathered at the Central Fish Market, at Pitipana parish, and carried a heavy wooden cross up to the Wellaveediya Church.

Some female fishers have stated: "We are already carrying our cross, because we are threatened by the port development project." The construction project of the port city was first proposed in September 2014 under the mandate of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  It will cost an estimated $ 1.5 billion, covered by the China Communications Construction Co. Ltd., a Chinese holding.

From outset it has generated the opposition of the local community, which is seeking its suspension. Environmentalists and fishermen, however, have always feared that the Sri Lankan government would retrace its steps and resume construction.

In January, the People's Movement against Port City, the group of activists who leads the protest, presented a document of environmental impact assessment (EIA) of 400 pages, containing 128 negative opinions about the construction.

Given, Colombo’s recent decision to give the green light to the Chinese company, the Movement has decided to return to the streets on April 4.

Loyal Peiris, a leader among the fishermen, recalled that Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato sì about the protection of the environment and its creatures, according to an integral vision of ecology. Speaking during a Station of the Cross, he pointed out a contradiction: "The project, which is devastating kilometers of rocks and sand, is not for the poor fishermen and their children, but for people who lead super luxurious lives in the world."

Fr. Perera concludes: "Our beloved Pope has already warned against the destruction of the world's nature. When we see injustice, our task is not only to speak out against it. We need to speak like Jesus. It is our prophetic role. When we talk about spiritual development, we must act to improve the conditions of our people”.

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