Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blossomed and Withered - The Reality of Tourism going out of Hand in Sri Lanka

The end of the 30 year conflict in Sri Lanka brought about new hopes to a land known for its beauty. I never saw the true beauty of my country due the war and now, finally, all doors are open and our country is open to all to cherish the beauty that this land has to offer.
I started my snorkel session in Trincomalee, headed to Batticoloa and then Kalpitiya. I was saddened. The beauty that brought about so much joy and warmth to my heart has been its downfall. Thousands of tourist itching to get a piece of our lands beauty has given way to a rat race that now engulfs and now overwhelms the fragile eco systems.
Believe it or not, the war actually protected these eco systems from destruction. Nowadays we see boat loads of people venturing to Pigeon Island who not only view the ‘Marine Sanctuary’ but also litter the small island paradise with plastic and garbage. This plastic makes it way out into the sea causing death and suffering to many innocent victims. Worse still, they start to take souvenirs – a piece of Coral – Live Coral, home to adorn their homes. Even though they look like plants or rock, Live corals are living and breathing animals like you and I.
The boats – unregulated will just killed the coral reef. Very soon the coral will die, the marine life whither away and all that would be left would be a barren reef.
Unregulated boats are not a thing of the east – it’s been happening for years in places like Hikkaduwa. I had always been cautioned by my father – ‘be careful of the glass bottom boats’, not because they pollute but because they are killers in the ocean! You can just snorkel in Hikkaduwa, you have to keep an eye on the irresponsible boatman who whiz past. Just last week, another (and I repeat another) tourist was run over by a glass bottom boat. Regulation? It’s non existent in what we call a ‘Marine Sanctuary’.
North and South of Hikkaduwa – to Mirrissa and Kalpitiya – we see unregulated boat services chasing after Dolphins and Whales. Very soon, these majestic creatures would venture off or worse still perish at the hands of short sighted and uneducated ‘tour operators’ of the areas.
As much as Sri Lanka is known for its National Parks, be it Yala or Udawalawe, Diving can also be developed to attract a considerable amount of tourists. Sadly the sport has not been given much recognition or support. Most dive sites are been lost due to short sighted financial gains. A good example is the ‘Earl of Shaftesbury’ off the coast in Batticoloa – a 700 foot ship off the coast of Mullativu – which has given government approval to be salvaged.
Such sunken treasures are a wonderful heaven to colourful creatures that take refuge in it's wake. Once a disaster to a crew of many people on board the ship with time turns into a miracle of nature. The surrounding corals and fish engulf the ship and take seige of this mystery to themselves and yes it is their home.
As of now a shipwreck home to many creatures a possible huge money making venture to the tourist industry is being salvage in Pulmudai.
There are some wrecks that are special to Sri Lanka which result in tourists arriving from all parts of the world just to dive and discover their hidden beauties. So, why waste away such a valuable natural resource that our country should treasure and hold.
Letting the ship wrecks remain as it is could attract recreational divers from all parts of the world. Arthur C Clarke talks about Trincomalee and Galle where many ship wrecks exist. Ship wrecks also act as a kind of coral reef which in the subsequent years attracts shoals of marine life which only increases the value and diversity of the oceans.
We have the capacity to become a huge money making diving destination. The wonders and mystery that lies beneath our oceans match that of countries like thailand who take advantage of the treasures of the underwater world by conserving it. This is a vast source of money for our tourist industry. Truly it is a treasure that lies beneath, colourful wonders far beyond our wildest expectations.
We cannot think short term. We cannot let industries be unregulated. It is time for the Environmental and Tourism Minister to work together to come about common legislator to manage our country’s fragile eco systems. Perhaps we should take our whole cabinet on a diving excursion like the government of Maldives to instill values of Environmental Consciences and Respect.
Sri Lanka, Blossom? That’s a sure thing, Withered? That’s our choice. Let’s start today. Make a difference, make a change. Let’s protect Sri Lanka’s natural wonders.
Dilsiri Welikala
April 2010

In the Pictures - Majestic Sunrise on the East Coast - Arugam Bay


Angel said...

I had never thought about the consequences in such detail... it is really sad that we humns pay so little attention to the effect of our actions on the environment.

Thanks for posting!

thekillromeoproject said...

Good post. Mot people tend to behave with a very short sighted mentality. Especially when it comes to conserving nature's treasures for future generations.

Dilsiri Welikala said...

i know guys. we live in paradise. we just need to make it sure stays a paradise. you shud climb adams peak during season - polythene everywhere. driving to jaffna last month people were throwing plastic from the busses and vans along the road in omanthi, killinochchi...it really makes me sad.

Kirigalpoththa said...

That is sad to hear.

Thanks for enlightening us on the true picture.

Anonymous said...
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Dilsiri Welikala said...

If each of us do our bit, together the change can be made. Stop using polythene, teach kids how to respect the environment...

I do think that we need to develop - build roads etc but we also must realise that what makes Sri Lanka so unique is its natural wonders. Jungles, Beaches, Wild Life...we also have a heritage...by attracting people to enjoy these aspect our country can really reap the benefits of tourism.

We dont need to build Casino's in Kalpitiya - thats not wise. We need to think about what makes us unique. No one can match what we have.

And yes, our people have no sense of environmental awareness. Thats sad.

Anonymous said...

Have not seen anybody thinking long term, in a long time.

People used to write indignant letters about badly dressed foreigners 'desecrating' sacred sites but I think the sea of litter left behind by the locals causes more permanent damage.

Roads are being cut through Wilpattu and parts of the land may be parceled off.

Coral mining goes unabated, raw sewage is dumped in the sea and Beira lake. Shade trees are constantly felled and no new planting takes place.

The Victoria Park is neglected and forlorn, rubbish is strewn all over the streets, stray animals roam everywhere.

deshan said...

I was at Pigeon Island last week and finally the wildlife department has installed two very nice gents to stay on the island. They keep people from stealing coral and are looking for support to build a permanent boat anchoring point off the shore.
Coral growing in shallow water is a disaster but the little sink holes are still thriving.

Dee said...

My uncle came down from states and was apalled at the way our own people treat Sri Lanka's nature. He pegs it down to APATHY and nothing else.

G said...

Touching and sadning but true. Great article, Dil! Thanx. Unfortunately I do not have to much hope for changes to the better. We humans just do not seem to get the point, at least not the majority of people. But never give up hope ...and your article should be an inspiration!
aloha from germany,

PS. After my first sandboarding experience in Namibia last week I will visit the island next week and will hang out in Arugam Bay from the 11th til 17th :-) for my first try of surfing... or maybe kitesurfing

dilsiriw said...

Hi G,

I would be in abay on the 9the and 10th I think. Unfortunately you cant learn kiting in Abay. Surfing yes.

Do give me a buzz when you are in town. My number is on the site.


G said...

Hi Dil,
I only will arrive @ Abay by Sunday the earliest. Will hang out with friends at Colombo first but will text you @ some point. Already stored your number ;-) Maybe we can meet up ... and you show me how to surf ;-) Take care. Aloha,

Dilsiri Welikala said...

Noted. I live in Colombo....just going to Abay for the weekend. Cool.