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People lost their rights day by day

Written By Freedam to the nation resettlement of IDPs on Monday, January 25, 2016 | 12:13 AM

Pasikudah , a hotelier advertised in his web site as a relaxing paradise for high dollar tourists is no more a relaxing beach for fisher folks. Their access to the beach is completely denied and they are not allowed to park their boats, nets and other fishing equipments in the beach and thus massively encroaching the living of fisher folk. They are now forced to walk up to 5 kilometer to reach the only available mooring. Over 300 fishermen have been forced to share an increasingly small section of the 5km-long, 14 hectare section of beach. They are now restricted to a 300m-long section that is overcrowded with fishermen. A fishery centre had to make way for hotels and big resorts. Hence, the fishermen not only lost the storage facilities for their nets and equipment, but also for the refrigeration of their catch, thus forcing them to sell it at lower prices. Land grabbing is very common here. Powerful politicians already acquired land forcefully (especially during Mahinda Rajapakse regime) and already constructed huge hotels and resorts.
In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, the government established buffer zones in the coastal areas. The people, who had lived on this land, sometimes for generations, were forced to leave these buffer zones because of their safety and environment conservation. While the original coastal residents were forced to relocate, the construction of hotels and tourist resorts in the buffer zones was approved and none of the safety and environment conservation applied for them.
Passikudah is a beautiful beach located in Batticaloa district. Prior to 1983, Passikudah had been a popular tourist attraction. At that time, the region offered three hotels with a total of 171 rooms. After the outbreak of war in 1983, tourism completely collapsed in the region. After the civil war of 2009, this place was again promoted and attracted huge investment. According to various reports more than 1000 hotel rooms has been already developed and many of them are under construction. Many of these constructions are destroying the fragile environment of the region. Destruction of mangroves and sand dunes has also very visible. Some reports say that authorities have conducted an EIA but our investigation shows that the local population had never been informed of the results.
Some local fisher folk pointed out that tourism in the past (prior to 1983) benefited local population more due to the involvement of small and medium businesses. But the current invasion of big players with huge investments limiting and reduced the scope of local benefits from tourism.
In recent past too much media reports and hype on Sri Lankan tourism. Many of these reports are praising the tourism development in Sri Lanka. But our experience from the ground tells us that a one sided and unsustainable development is taking place here with violations of serious human and other rights .
More on Military tourism tomorrow....
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