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.
Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI
Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.
Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.
Unions predict end of energy sovereignty
By Rathindra Kuruwita
A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.
“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”
Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.
“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.
Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue
The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.
Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.
“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.
“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”
Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.
However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen
Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”
But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.
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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty
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