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Mawella Bay, extolled by Lonely Planet, faces threat of destruction

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The Mawella Bay, amongst the top 10 most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka according to Lonely Planet, is under severe threat of destruction due to unplanned coastal constructions. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has been fighting a lonely battle against the Coast Conservation and the Department (CCD) and the Fisheries Ministry to stop the destruction of the bay, according to the Mawella Tourism Association (MTA).

The MTA which has a membership of the investors of the beach properties in the Mawella Bay, said in a statement that all their efforts to make the authorities understand that such badly planned constructions will be a detriment to the investors and also give a very bad signal across the globe, has gone unheeded.

Lonely Planet, which has existed for almost 50 years and is probably the most used and trusted guide across the world, advising hundreds of millions of travellers of all budgets every year, describes the bay as mesmerising. “Mawella is a mesmerising yet little-known south coast beach. Its 2km (1.2 mile) crescent-shaped bay is backed by just a handful of boutique hotels, villas and simple bungalows, basking in vast palm-shaded grounds. Despite being just 7km (4.3 miles) from Tangalla, those in the know come here for a rare taste of southern escapism and plan to do very little at all. That said, the rolling waves are fun for body-boarding, and the long beach is super for break-of-dawn runs.”

“The proposed structures that might well spell the end for this beautiful beach, includes the 300 metres long stone anchorage which is already built and two offshore breakwaters which is said will mitigate erosion.  However, there has been no scientific approach in the planning of these suddenly proposed structures, which may well seal the fate of this beautiful internationally lauded coastal stretch,” says a spokesperson for the Association.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is the best possible mechanism available under the law to ensure fair play, was not conducted in regard to the proposed hard structures.  Despite Sri Lanka Tourism instructing the Fisheries Ministry and the CCD to consult stakeholders in this regard, it went unheeded.  The two state agencies instead decided to go ahead with just an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE), which does not require stakeholder consultation.

The SLTDA has put the Fisheries Ministry and the CCD on notice in this regard stating that these constructions were not done with the consultation of all stakeholders.

The MTA says they have no confidence in the current design and plans of the CCD because the anchorage that has been built in the bay is faulty in design and the other plans for the breakwaters also are not being done in any scientific manner.  Their views are backed by a coastal scientist who they consulted on this matter.

The consultant, Charitha Pattiaratchi, Professor of Coastal Oceanography at the University of Western Australia has said that the construction of the two 60m offshore breakwaters is not recommended because they are being located in a region with high waves and current activity. “The region for the proposed breakwaters is a highly complex region in terms of hydrodynamics and sand transport. The breakwaters will retain sand in the lee which will interrupt the alongshore transport of sand. As the sand retained would be from regions along the ~1.5 km length of beach there is a strong probability of extreme erosion in other regions of the Bay,” says the Professor.

There have been many reports in the past done by experts on hard coastal structures in coastal areas with undesirable repercussions.  Kem Lowry of the University of Hawaii and H.J.M. Wickremeratne of the Coast Conservation Dept. who did a feasibility study on ‘Coastal Area Management in Sri Lanka’ presented a report in 1988, where a section on ‘Ill-designed Coastal Erosion Protection Structures’ refer to several reactive measures taken by the Coast Conservation Department (CCD).  They state in their report that while these were probably done under public pressure to prevent erosion, they have without a doubt proved disastrous and some of the structures were built without any scientific understanding of the local coastal dynamics.  The result was the ‘solution’ to prevent erosion in one area, causing considerable erosion to occur elsewhere.

A more recent research project carried out by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) in March 2021 titled, ‘Are coastal protective hard structures still applicable with respect to shoreline changes in Sri Lanka?’, refers to human influence on nature. It says the application of hard structures is least able to control coastal erosion in a large area because while it may be good for the site it is not helpful for adjacent areas. It says the environment will remain under its natural conditions as long as humans introduce no alterations.



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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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ADB country chief hopes Lanka could sustain policy reforms despite elections

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Takafumi Kadono

ECONOMYNEXT –The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects Sri Lanka not to reverse its International Monetary Fund-led policy reforms despite elections soon, the ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono said.

The island nation has witnessed repeated reversals of policy reforms in the past due to greedy politicians who misled  the people to vote for them by sowing the seeds of subsidy mentality with unsustainable debts at expensive borrowing costs, economists say.

That led the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with a sovereign debt default. Sri Lanka is still struggling to come out of the crisis.

The IMF has strictly placed some reforms including in state sector enterprises, fiscal and monetary sectors.

Sri Lanka has implemented the painful IMF reforms so far including higher personal income taxes, but economists have raised concerns over the sustainability of the current reforms due to possible changes in the policies in the event of a new president or government comes to power after democratic elections.

“If that kind of reversal happens, we also cannot justify our support,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono told EconomyNext on late on Wednesday.

“We do expect these policy reforms to be sustained. So that is our expectation. That is the premise which we are providing our budget support. If they reverse, the whole premise will be collapsed. That kind of policy reversal cannot happen.”

The island nation had sought IMF bailout package for 17 times including the ongoing support. However, the authorities have failed to complete most of the past IMF loan disbursements due to politically motivated contradiction with the global lender’s tight fiscal policies.

Sri Lanka has shown some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2023 with the economic growth turned to positive from contraction for the first time in seven quarters.

However, opposition political parties have promised to revisit the IMF deal if they come to power.

Higher taxes, soaring cost of living, and lack of salary hike have made President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government unpopulour among the public, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe has said the country will hold both presidential and parliamentary election by 2025.

Some government politicians have told EconomyNext that the higher taxes would be eased from April and the authorities will try their best to meet the IMF conditions for the third disbursement in June this year.

The presidential polls should be held by October this year, but opposition parties have said President Wickremesinghe is in the process to delay the poll.

However, Wickremesinghe’s office last week said Presidential Election will be held “within the mandated period”, without giving an exact time.It also said the General Election will be held next year, “according to the current timeline”.

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