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Tourism project threatens fishermen

Fishing families fight for land 'taken away' from them by developers

  • ucanews.com reporter, Chilaw
  • Sri Lanka
  • May 13, 2011
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Catholic fishing families on a western island say their livelihoods are under serious threat after developers seized their land and denied access to their work huts, beach seines and anchorage points.

Some 140 families on Mohoththuwaran Island say their troubles started after government allocated beach areas in their locality and on 13 other small islands to developers as part of a proposed plan to boost tourism.

“At the moment we cannot use the beach because developers have taken our lands and erected barbed wire fences. They say we are trespassing,” said a worried fisherman, Sylvester Anthony

“Access to our beach seines and to anchorage points we traditionally use have been totally cut,” he said.

“Some of our villagers are resigning themselves to moving away as they are unable to show land title deeds, he added.”

The families have appealed to authorities for assistance, saying a compromise should be reached.

“There is a need for development but it should not affect our livelihood. We are so upset over this,” said Dinesh Suranjan Fernando, general secretary of the All Ceylon Fisher Folk Union.

Bishop Valence Mendis of Chilaw recently met with the fishermen to discuss their problem.

“We expect the Church to help us resolve the issue or at least limit the harm done to us,” said Sebastian Peter, another fisherman.

“We have written to the authorities to get our land ownership confirmed but have had no reply.”

Caritas Chilaw says they are looking into ways they can help the families.

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