06/14/2011, 00.00
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Kalpitiya: fishermen’s livelihoods still at risk from mega tourism project

by Melani Manel Perera
The tourism project involves the construction of a huge resort: 17 hotel for a total of 5 thousand rooms and 10 thousand beds. Local population kept in dark about scale of project and its consequences, access to the sea prohibited and the ecosystem may be destroyed. Ferry service between India and Sri Lanka re-opens.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The mega tourism project involving the islands of northwestern Kalpitiya (Puttalam district) is important for the economy of Sri Lanka, but it should not come at the cost the livelihoods of the local fishermen, nor destroy the ecosystem. These are the findings of the report of a group of foreign activists for human rights, who on the 4th and 5th of June visited the area. The survey was then discussed in a seminar organized by Fimarc (International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements), entitled "Threats of development for local communities in access to land and natural resources." The project linked to the area of Kalpitiya is part of a wider government plan for economic development, to respond to the economic depression brought on by the thirty-year ethnic conflict.

Among the delegates - two from South Korea, one from Thailand and one of the Philippines - was Bengali native Philip Biswas, founder, executive director and Asian coordinator for the Rural Reconstruction Foundation (RRF) of Fimarc. Biswas recognizes tourism as a major source of income, but warned: "The government must pay attention to the long term consequences. Hasty development generates environmental degradation and the reduction of marine resources due to pollution, drug trafficking, sex tourism, the spread of HIV / AIDS and other diseases. "

The survey shows that the government made all decisions without consulting local residents. The Sri Lankan navy has already fenced in a lot of beaches, preventing fishermen access to the sea: seriously harming the livelihoods of families of Kalpitiya, based mostly on fishing.

As part of a mega tourism project on a national scale, the Ceylon Tourist Board has selected 14 islands of Kalpitiya as a site for the Kalpitiya Dutch Bay Resort, which was launched in 2008. According to the project, the entire complex comprises the construction of 17 hotels for a total of 5 thousand rooms and 10 thousand beds.

In the aim to make the island a "Wonder of Asia" (as defined by President Mahinda Rajapaksa), ferry services between India and Sri Lanka have re-opened. Last night, the Scotia Prince (of the Indian company Flemingo) left the port of Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu, India) destination Colombo. After that maiden voyage, there will be two sailings per week. The Sri Lankan Ceylon Shipping Corporation, will provide another boat. Communications by sea between the two countries were interrupted 30 years ago, because of the Sri Lankan civil war. The initiative creates a link between the two countries that is cheaper than flying. However, there are fears that the initiative may be affected by bad relations between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, the closest Indian state.

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