Is Arugam Bay being abandoned to human wolves?

Pottuvil Point, one of the best surfing areas in the world



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Environmenatalists, nature lovers and some holidaymakers are up in arms against the rapid haphazard development taking place in Arugam Bay which is one of the most sought after and un-spoilt tourist resorts in Sri Lanka.


Michelle Mitchel of Sydney, Australia, born to Sri Lankan parents, expressed her displeasure at the adhoc and rapid development taking place in the area and added if the government allowed the trend to continue, very soon the country would see that the steady flow of tourists to the resort would reduce drastically.


 Mitchelle in an interview with "The Traveller" after holidaying in Arugam Bay said that the tourism authorities and other stakeholders should make every effort to protect the area and ensure that there was no overdevelopment in the resort.


"Arugam Bay with its pristine and un-spoilt beaches, the laid back and rustic atmosphere had attracted thousands of holidaymakers to the country. Another reason why it has become popular all over the world as a destination among tourists is because Pottuvil Point is one of the best surfing areas in the world. Pottuvil Point has attracted large number of surfers from different parts of the world and it is a gold mine for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry which should be protected at any cost," she said.


 Building of high-rises and similar construction , overdevelopment and overcrowding would definitely ruin  the  character of the area  and it would become just another tourist resort  with a concrete jungle  which would eventually result in holidaymakers who loved the ‘paradise’ turning to other exotic destinations in the region or elsewhere and this could be a dangerous precedent, Mitchelle said.


 According to her, the warnings given by those who loved Arugam Bay and wanted to protect the area had fallen on deaf ears and there were unauthorised constructions and the beach  was crammed with scores of concrete structures  and the worse part was that majority of them did not conform to the stipulated standards, she added.


Mitchelle was also of the opinion that the relevant authorities should create awareness about the need to protect the environment and it should be a sustained campaign. Those programmes should be started at school level and go to the grassroots to get the best results.


Some residents in the area who spoke in anonymity complained that there were certain elements who were having a monopoly and interfere in the day to day affairs of local authority and extort money from the visitors, mainly locals.


The Pottuvil Pradeshiya Sabha under whose purview the area came turned a blind eye to those nefarious activities, critics charged.


Those elements were even taking kappam (extortion money) from some of the hoteliers and if it was not nipped in the bud, tourism industry would suffer badly in the future, they said.


"A group of thugs in the area have taken some of the functions which should be performed by the Pradeshiya Sabha or the Town Council such as parking and shower facilities for bathers and fleece the visitors and this practice  needed to be stopped forthwith," a resident said.


 They said that some prime lands close to the beach have been leased to certain persons without following the stipulated procedures due to their political connections and in some of those transactions money have changed hands.


 Senior hotelier, lecturer and nature lover Anil Perera said that the environmentalists and nature lovers had repeatedly told the authorities on the need to adopt best environmental practices and the authorities had not heeded those warnings.


 "There is no concern about fauna and flora and some of the protected areas have been destroyed. In some areas large number of houases have been built paying no attention to the need to protecting the environment. Eastern Province boasts of a large number of archaeological sites with a huge presence of places of religious worship. In the surrounding areas of Arugam Bay are so many archaeological and historical sites and they are being systematically destroyed. These sites are the country’s heritage and scores of tourists visit these places.


But it is sad to say that the authorities have neither taken action against those responsible nor bring an end to their unlawful acts," Perera said.


He said that it should be highlighted that some law enforcement officers and security forces personnel have been brave enough to confront some of those rogue elements and bring them to book  even risking their jobs and in some cases their lives, the culprits had got away scot free as some corrupt politicians were supporting those elements.


 "We need to protect our heritage", he said adding that the archaeological department and other responsible authorities should protect the Muhudu Maha Viharaya in Pottuvil which had been vandalised on a number of occasions by certain groups with vested interests.


"Some of them want to erase the country’s rich history to suit their sinister designs and this should not be allowed, Perera, the senior hotelier said.


"Pakistan is a country plagued with terrorism, but the government had been able to protect its religious sites such as Taxila and those in Swat and certain other areas," he pointed out.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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