Activists seek support for fishing families
Proposed tourism project would pose problems for people living on the islands
The general secretary of All Ceylon Fisher Folk trade union addressing the meeting
Clergy and rights activists have called for public support in the fight against a tourism development. The project as proposed by the government will affect 14 islands in the northwestern coastal area of Kalpitiya and more than 10,000 people there who depend on fishing for their livelihood. Catholic fishing families on a western island are threatened with beach developments. “People in the Kalpitiya Tourism Zone are living with fear due to the threat to their livelihoods,” said Father Sarath Iddamalgoda, a Catholic priest, addressing a meeting in Colombo on June 6. Rights activists say the proposed tourism project would pose many difficulties for people living on the islands. They have pointed out that a land grab by the private sector has already resulted in destruction of mangrove forests and other ecosystems in the zone. People living in the zone face the loss of their anchorage points, forced evictions and loss of land with illegal contracts. Most of the fishing community living there “have to leave their homelands and jobs. It is unfair,” said Dinesh Suranjan Fernando, general secretary of the All Ceylon Fisher Folk Union. “We are not against developing the country in the field of tourism but it should not affect our livelihood,” said Fernando, a fisherman. Catholicism and Islam are the principal religions in the 14 islands, which have a landmass of 1,673 hectares.