PLIGHT OF FISHERFOLK AND REMOVAL OF REEF OFF DEHIWALA BEACH

Published : 10:53 am  July 12, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (861) reads | 

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Fishermen in the Dehiwala area lamented that no authority or government institution paid a call to discuss the concern about removing the reef off the Dehiwala beach. While several fishermen expressed concern about possible adverse effects of the proposed project, they said though they heard a lot about their dilemma in the media, no one ever visited them.

Simon Kalutaraarchchi (60), an elderly fisherman in the Dehiwala area, said they faced a serious predicament due to sea erosion that destroyed more than 100 houses and displaced a large number of families, most probably due to the breakwater in the Port City Project. “A vast area of the sea had been filled to build the port city and we believe that it resulted in the ongoing sea erosion. The proposed project to remove a reef would result in similar consequences.

It is only the fisherfolk and the residents of the area who will suffer the cost of any such anti-environmental project. After all, we have never requested the government to remove this reef,” he said. Wimalasena Silva (42), another fisherman from Ratmalana, expressed similar views about the project. He pointed out that the authorities should have created public awareness about the project, but they failed to do so.

“How can we know what is expected out of this project. The reef is a natural formation of the sea and removing it could result in serious consequences. The reef is not an obstacle to us in any way. We can carry on our livelihood and live along the beach if not for sea erosion. If the reef is removed, it could aggravate sea erosion,” he said. Meanwhile, a resident of the area Ramyapala de Silva (55) was of opinion that the project should be implemented after a thorough environmental feasibility study. However, sources said a group

Hemantha Vithanage – Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice

This is madness. The reef is the only thing that protects the country. Sea erosion would increase and there would be a definite change in the marine eco- system in the area. It is like killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Because of the change in climate, the waves pushing ashore are bigger and the temperature of the water is also higher. The only thing that protects the coast from the huge waves is these barriers. In Sri Lanka, we had an ‘El-Nino’ situation in 1996-7 where the reefs are concerned. All of it died and they were just making their return, but they are endangered again now. It is foolish to remove them. The reef does not solely belong to the fishermen. It belongs to the whole country.

They cannot arbitrarily remove it just like that. The fishermen should have the traditional knowledge of fishing to know the routes. I do not think this is a big issue. There are so many places that have harbours and from where they can take boats. Removing a natural barrier like this is not the answer. We will pressurize the government and the politicians to not go through with this nonsense