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Fisherfolk angered by sand dredging

Sri Lanka contributes more to port project than Chinese

Fisherfolk angered by sand dredging

Fishermen and environmental activists including Christian priests and nuns march against the government’s decision to go ahead with the Chinese-funded port city project which affects fish breeding sites, in this file photo. (Photo by Quintus Colombage/ucanews.com)

Quintus Colombage, Negombo
Sri Lanka

October 25, 2017

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The Sri Lankan Government is to investigate allegations that sand dredging for the country’s Port City project will damage the environment and livelihoods of fishermen.

A report on the issue is to be compiled by the Ministry of Megapolis that has overall authority for urban development.

The People’s Movement against Port City (PMAPC) complained that dredging operations have taken place closer to the shore than a stated six to seven-kilometer limit.

While 70 million cubic meters of sand has already been dredged, the intention is to dredge a further 40 million cubic meters

According to environmentalists, the scale and location of dredging threatens important fish breeding areas, including coral reefs.

Father Sarath Iddamalgoda, a PMAPC activist opposed to the project, said fishermen had seen dredging taking place very close to the shoreline.

He added that during a long government delay in agreeing to investigate environmental breaches, habitat destruction had continued.

Sri Lanka and China signed an agreement in 2016 to construct the US$1.5 billion Port City project aimed at making Colombo a financial and trading hub.

Father Iddamalgoda said erosion caused by dredging was already visible near the city of Negombo in Western Province.

Two houses had already been washed away and another was set to be wiped out.

Father Iddamalgoda said he recently noticed that the sea had encroached about 20 meters onto the land in some places.

He also complained that Sri Lanka’s contribution of resources such as sand and granite has been much higher than the value of Chinese loans.

Environmental activists and fishermen waving black flags, including Christian priests, have staged a series of protests.

Fisherman Anton Kurukulasuriya predicts severe impacts on a 71-kilometer coastal strip from Colombo to Chilaw, in North Western Province.

He fears a "human tragedy" will unfold as fishermen and others are driven away by environmental devastation.

And Kurukulasuriya believes the Port City development is designed to benefit China economically rather than Sri Lanka.

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