The Sri Lankan coastline has seen many disasters in the recent past. Its high vulnerability to climate change impacts like sea-level rise, flooding, storm surges, cyclones together with unexpected manmade disasters like the fire on the New Diamond oil tanker and the X-Press Pearl chemical spill makes us realise the immense value of Sri Lanka’s beautiful coastline and how precariously its survival is balanced at the moment. The sole tourist magnet for many years in the past has been our beautiful beaches. But the destruction of our beaches goes on, making one wonder if will be left with any decent beaches at all for our children to brag about in the future.
The Negombo beach is not contiguous; it exists in patches. The Mount Lavinia beach needed to be filled in, just to keep its name going and tourists coming to this destination . The same goes for Unawatuna. A small breakwater caused the world-famous Unawatuna beach to disappear almost overnight. The other prime example is the coastline from Wattala all the way to Chilaw. It has all but disappeared. Miles and miles of black boulders piled high on the once soft sand-filled beaches. Sea walls, groins, breakwaters and anchorages stick out like skeletal ribs of a dead shore bearing silent witness to the damage engineering has done to the coastline. It is due to lack of foresight and knowledge of planners and builders, mainly of the Coast Conservation and Fisheries Departments. If one looks up the coastline on Google satellite, it is all but gone, all the way from Colombo to Chilaw. And downwards from Colombo to Kalutara. Anchorages up to Marawila and beyond stand-alone like graves of a lost shoreline and is an eyesore even on Google maps! The sand is carved out around them leaving only the boulder structure, dysfunctional with nothing to protect.
Engineered coastlines the world over have not only failed to protect the beaches but have actively contributed to its disappearance. The largest structural changes in hydrodynamic conditions of the sea and sediment supply are generally due to human interventions. Beach sand comes mostly (90 percent) from inland waterways. When these are blocked with dams, the sediments that collect inside the dams never reach the sea. Moreover, river sand is harvested and sold. A beach is a dynamic space. So is its sand. It keeps shifting with ocean currents and seasons. Humans intervene in this natural force of the sea, with disastrous consequences. All these human activities, mostly at government level, have contributed to the degradation of Sri Lanka’s beaches. Though the blame and shame are piled high on business interests like hotels and tourism-related activities, on analysis, they are not the only culprits. We can see that the biggest destroyer has been the government. With its lacklustre employees churning out outdated and harmful solutions. They construct structures that actually damage this valuable natural heritage.
This is happening currently in Mawella. It has been in the news that the planned government ‘coast protection’ methods will be applied there again, to a pristine and beautiful beach. This is for the benefit of a few fishermen. In this beautiful bay, it comes in the form of a breakwater with a fisheries harbour and two anchorages to hold the sand ‘in’ during the off-season monsoonal rains Vaarakan. These structures are spread out over the whole bay. Being a government project, interdepartmental approvals were easily obtained, including a conditional no objection letter from the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority. The wrecking has already been launched. The contractor, a local politician-cum-quarry businessman, who is a long-standing friend of the current ruling party, has won the contract bid and has started the carnage already. Because it was under threat of being stopped during a court case launched by concerned parties, he is working 24/7 to take it beyond the point of turning back.
Trying to stop this ravaging of beauty in the name of coast conservation and fisheries development, concerned environmentalists, tourism investors, especially eco-tourism enthusiasts of the bay, and fishermen who are against this project have challenged this hare-brained project in the highest courts. As a result, the court has issued a ruling banning all multi-day boats from ever entering Mawella Bay, let alone the harbour therein. Moreover, awakening belatedly to the huge tourism potential of the bay as well as heeding its ongoing tourism projects and the massive tourism investments already made as well as in the pipeline for Mawella, the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority has withdrawn approvals granted to this project. Either due to the contractor’s hurry, racketeering, or some sea god’s intervention, part of the breakwater, already built, has collapsed (See Pic 3). The shore sand shift is visible already. The fishermen, in whose name this massacre of a beach is carried out, are already complaining of their new predicament. And the multi-day boat fishers who were the major beneficiaries, stand cast out from this fisheries harbour.
So, my question is what is the purpose of this development now, which is costing taxpayers Rs.399 million. They are building a harbour, which is banned for boats! The businessman is continuing to build the breakwater regardless, because it fills his pockets. He couldn’t care less if it is used or not. The government Fisheries and Coast Conservation Departments say they can’t stop the project even if it’s now rendered useless with the Court verdict, as it will cost more to stop it and compensate the contractor. So he wins either way. But at least the cost to the environment can be prevented. The crashing of thriving and eco-friendly tourism can be stopped. The disaster of ruining one of the most beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka can be stopped. Aren’t they a precious enough commodity these days?
What can be done instead in Mawella? Surrounded by cliffs and filled with nooks and crannies, it can easily be turned into a fish-breeding ground. Coastal fishermen of Mawella have seen a decline in their yield steadily over the years. With the lagoon as a prop, the shallow waters of the bay will make an ideal breeding ground for replenishing Sri Lankan fisheries resources if it can be turned into a fish breeding project. If this happens, tourism too, will flourish. Fisheries tourism is a niche market and remains unexplored in Sri Lanka. With the existing vibrant fishing community, this can be tried in Mawella, especially the unique local know-how and existing eco-friendly fishing methods they use. Creating an underwater bio-reef may protect the bay better than the planned engineered structures like the breakwaters, jetties and anchorages. These structures are banned in some states in America as well as the damaging effect on sand migration well studied and documented in other countries that have built these already. They have suffered the consequences. Let us learn from others’ mistakes.
In the power and energy sector, the government has realised the damage caused by fossil fuel and taken timely course corrections to change power generation plans to renewables. Hats off to them, especially the president for doing this. In the same way, coast conservation and fisheries also need to be looked at with environmental impact as a top priority. They need to learn from other countries who have suffered the consequences of old and bygone methods of coast conservation. Groins, seawalls and breakwaters may have their place and use in sea-ravaged and eroded coastlines, but not in the pristinely preserved Mawella Bay. As far as I know, these engineered structures are supposed to be built perpendicular to the shoreline which is impossible in a curved shape like a bay, without impacting its wave patterns and completely ruining it. These spoil not only the beauty of the bay but its currents, wave patterns, sand movement, plants and fish. This affects not only humans but every living thing that depends on these for their survival, from plants, fish to humans. There have been recorded sightings of pink dolphins in this bay, a rare breed of dolphins. What good is it to fishermen if there are no fish to catch? Which is amply proven by the fish yields of Mawella. Isn’t it better to re-evaluate and use the money for something more beneficial to the fishermen of the area? Doing so is the surest way of protecting our coastal ecosystems as well as Sri Lanka’s beaches for future generations.
Ven Ajahn Brahmavamso visits Sri Lanka in May
by Nanda Pethiyagoda
The next month, soon to be upon us, is of special significance to the majority of Sri Lankans since we Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate our New Year, with festivities continuing for a week or more in mid-April. The month of May is significant to Buddhists as the three major events of the Buddha’s life are commemorated at the Vesak full moon poya. This year, May carries another significance, joyful and to be grateful for. Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso arrives here towards the end of the month for about two weeks. The Ajahn Brahm Society of Sri Lanka (ABS) has completed all arrangements for the visit which is full of great good happenings.
The last time Ven Ajahn Brahm was in Sri Lanka was 2017. I well remember the day long sessions of his speaking to the audience in the BMICH, delivering so easily and absorbingly the Word of the Buddha and conducting meditation. 7000 persons were present to listen to the venerable monk from Australia, spreading themselves in all the BMICH halls and a few even seating themselves in the corridors. The sessions, with Ven Ajahn Brahm moving from hall to hall, with of course TV presentations in them, were deep in significance and of immense benefit to us. However, as is his manner of presentation, the gravity of what was being imparted was tempered by Ven Brahmavamso’s informality and constantly smiling, benign face. One indication of his informality is shortening his religious name to Ajahn Brahm.
This time it is one session on May 30 that the monk will conduct at the BMICH. Passes were available at announced venues from the 15th of this month. I am certain they were all snapped up, so eager are we to listen to this great teacher.
His programme, most efficiently arranged and made widely known by the ABS under the guidance of Ven Mettavihari, includes a resident meditation retreat from May 22 to 30 in Bandarawela for 150 participants inclusive of bhikkhus, bhikkhunis and lay persons.
A singularly unique forum will be held exclusively for professionals and business persons at the Galle Face Hotel on May 29. These sessions are by invitation, sent out well in time by ABS.
The much looked forward to Dhamma talk and meditation instructions for the public will be at the BMICH from 7.00 to 11.00 am on May 30. Anticipatory of the large crowds that will flock to the BMICH on that day, the ABS has organised sessions with the venerable monk moving from the Main Hall to Sirimavo Halls A and B so all can see and hear him. He will speak in English, followed by summarizations in Sinhala.
More information could be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For WhatsApp messages the number is 0720735837. The filled applications are to be submitted before 10th April 2023.
It seems superfluous to give details, even brief facts on Ven Brahmavamso, as he is well known in this country of ours. However, it appears pertinent to mention facets of the life of this very blessed Bhikkhu.
He was born in London in 1951. Having read widely on Buddhism, at the tender age of 16, this promising student and keenly interested teenager considered himself a Buddhist by conviction. When in the University of Cambridge following his undergrad course in Theoretical Physics, his strong interest in Buddhism and gravitation to meditation went alongside his studies. After earning his degree he taught for one year, He then decided to follow his greater interest in Buddhist philosophy and practice and so proceeded to Thailand. He followed meditation under a couple of Thai masters. Convinced of his future as a Buddhist Bhikkhu, he was ordained a monk at the age of 23 by the Chief Incumbent of Wat Saket. He then went for further training to the famous meditation teacher – Ajahn Chah. He spent nine years studying and training in the forest tradition. In 1983 he was invited to help establish a forest monastery near Perth, Western Australia. Within a short period he was Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, Perth. He is also the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia and Spiritual Patron to the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore. These are but two of the spiritual responsibilities he undertakes. His pragmatic approach and his deep conviction in Dhamma have made him a much sought after Buddhist teacher throughout the world.
We Sri Lankans are truly blessed to have him visit our land and share his knowledge, his conviction in the Buddha Word and his encouragement to meditate.
The team that calls itself the Ajahn Brahm Society Sri Lanka of multi-talented and multi-skilled men and woman are all deeply dedicated to helping us, the public of Sri Lanka, benefit from Ajahn Brahm, acknowledged as an excellent teacher and exponent of the Dhamma. We are most grateful to them and Ven Mettavihari who guides the ABS.
Aragala in US
It was recently reported that Philadelphia would pay $9.25 million to a group of protesters over police use of tear gas and rubber bullets during 2020 unrest in which lots of hardships were caused to the protesters who quite rightly protested against the brtual killing of the black youth, George Floyd.
That is is how the social justice or the democracy are respected in the US. The American authorities are answerable for injustice caused to the general public.
I don’t have to elaborate on the gloomy and undemocratic situations prevailing in this country at present. Two persons have been killed and many others injured in protests during the past several weeks. According to the media there were doubts about the quality of the water and tear gas used on the protesters.
The whole world is well aware of the present state of affairs in our country.
The rulers’ undemocratic actions make use wonder whether ours is a “Democratic Socialist Republic’.
One of best development administrators SL ever had
Mr. K. Thayaparan (KT), who retired from the government service after serving as a development administrator for more than thirty years passed away on Jan 05 at the age of 86. He was born in 1937 in Malaya, which was then under the British rule; his father had migrated there in 1916 for employment. His father was employed in the Malayan Railways, and the family was living a happy life. In the late 1940s, there erupted a terrorist movement launched by Communists of Chinese origin. To fight with the terrorists the British Government had issued a conscription order for all school leavers above the age of 17 years to join the military. Many families with male children over 17 years fled to Ceylon to avoid conscription. Since KT’s family also had a male child who had been noticed to report for military duty, his family members too other than his father left Malaya in 1951 and came to live in Ceylon. In Jaffna, KT resumed and completed his school education. In 1958 he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya to undertake studies in geography, economics and history.
During the university days, KT had won university colours in badminton. He graduated in 1961, and served as a school teacher in the Matara district. In 1962, after sitting a competitive examination, KT joined the Government Divisional Revenue Officers’ service. In 1963, together with the other officers of the DROs’ service and comparable services, KT was absorbed into the Ceylon Administrative Service that had been created in place of the Ceylon Civil Service, which had simultaneously been abolished.
Till 1975 KT served in the district administration in the northern districts, first as DRO, then as Asst. Government Agent and as Addl. Government Agent. From 1976 to 1979 he worked in the Ministry of Fisheries as Deputy Director Planning, and contributed to the development of the National Fisheries Development Plan 1979 – 1983. The Fisheries Development Plan, among other activities had concentrated on exploitation of the fish resources in the Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, which was proclaimed in 1977, and utilisation of irrigation reservoirs and village tanks for development of inland fisheries. The Government made a policy decision to implement an accelerated programme to develop inland fisheries and aquaculture. For this purpose, a new Division called the Inland Fisheries Division was set up in the Ministry, and KT was appointed its director.
The accelerated development programme had a number of activities to perform. Establishment of fish breeding stations in different parts of the country, recruitment and training of scientific and technical officers to serve at fish breeding centres, import of exotic fish species suitable for culture in Sri Lankan inland waterbodies, training of youth in inland fishing and aquaculture, promotion of investments in shrimp farming, etc. Funding agencies like UNDP, ADB and individual countries on bilateral basis came forward to support the accelerated inland fisheries development programme by providing funds for development of infrastructure, providing technical assistance, providing foreign training for the scientific and technical staff who were mostly young people without experience, and providing advisory services. It was heavy work for KT, but he managed the Division and its work smoothly.
KT was a firm believer in team work. He knew workers in all outstation inland fisheries or aquaculture establishments by name. He distributed foreign training slots offered by donor countries or agencies to every scientific or technical officer on an equitable basis. He listened to everybody, and was quite loved by his staff. KT was quite neutral in politics. However, in spite of his hard work to develop the inland fisheries sector, he was transferred out of the Ministry in 1985 to the SLAS Pool.
In 1979 when KT took over the responsibility of developing inland fisheries and aquaculture in the country, the total national inland fish production in Sri Lanka was 17,400 tons. During his tenure of nearly six years, the national inland fish production steadily increased and in 1985, the year he was transferred it had increased to 32,700 tons, showing an increase of nearly 90%. Also, there were 4,500 inland fishing craft operating in reservoirs, and the number employed as fishers, fish collectors, fish traders, etc. was over 10,000.
After leaving the Ministry of Fisheries he served different assignments such as Director Regional Development, National Consultant or the World Bank funded Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Project, Secretary to the North-East Provincial Council Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, and Secretary to the State Ministry Hindu Religious and Cultural Affairs. In 1995, he was appointed Addl. Secretary Development of the Ministry of Fisheries, but his stay in this post was brief since the then Minister replaced him with one of his political supporters. His last government assignment was as Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Plan Implementation, National Integration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1997, he retired from the government service, but continued in a few foreign funded projects as institutional development consultant. He once told that his most productive period in the government service was as Director Inland Fisheries. After retirement he authored several books, Reminiscences of Malaya 1937 – 1951, Stories of Some Brave Men and High Achievers, and Introduction to Some Known High Achievers.
Although he was quite suitable to be appointed the Secretary to a Ministry, he was never considered for such a post. In the final years of his career, he was compelled to serve under his juniors. But he carried on regardless and did the best in whatever the capacity he served.
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