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Fact Finding Mission on Land & Sea Grabbing issues at Kalpitiya Islands in Puttlam district in Sri Lanka

Written By Joining Hands Network on Monday, March 21, 2011 | 10:30 PM

“STOP: The Displacement of Coastal Communities in the name of Wonders in Asia.”

During the discussion with the Asssistant Director of Fisheries Department in Puttalam

During the disucussion with Church Priest of Kalpitiya

During the discussion with the divisional secretary of Kalpitiya

IFFM Team at Coastal Conservation Department in Kalpitiya

Sri Lanka aims to be the “wonders in the Asia” within coming decade. For achieve this, the Sri Lankan governments’ main development plan is promotion of tourism and related activities in the country. The PRSP strategy in which then SL govt. adopted in 2002 mainly focus was to develop 14 tourism zones along the coast.[See the annex 1] However, amidst the people’s resistance it was withdrawn at that time and the government was defeated. But, the same plans emerged again as Post Tsunami Development Plans in 2005 under the former president ‘s guidance of Task Force For Rebuild Nation [TAFREN]. Some of the areas in this 14 locations were not touched at the beginning due to war and only Southern Sri Lanka was used for the tourism promotion process. In the Post War Development programs, under the present regime the main area of development they see is tourism. The aim is to bring 2.5 million tourists to Sri Lanka by 2016 against the 0.6 million tourists at the end of 2010. Last year, in 2010 it was reported number of arrived tourists were around 600,000 persons. Now, the government encourage private sector to invest in tourism and infra structure development for attract tourists to the country. With this aim, private sector attract the tourism sector and invest for the maximum benefit out of this opportunity.
As a part of out come of the formation of Food Sovereignty Network in Sri Lanka, in January 2011, the participants felt we need to engage campaign on land and sea grabbing issues all over the country. So, NAFSO and IMSE together with FSNSA decided to conduct a Fact Finding Mission on the tourism project that detrimental to food sovereignty, employment security, access rights, and the human rights of the communities in the islands in Kalpitiya peninsular.
Very importantly, the poor knowledge of the rights of the people, vulnerability due to un organize and least attention from the politicians and authorities push them in to the corners of the margins hence, they are the most marginalized among marginal communities in the country.
The knowledge and information we generate through FMM will help in many social layers, starting from the local communities. Regionally there is an important to local government to guide the people, district governing bodies to understand the irregularities of land use and how they negatively affect the local communities, specifically on fishers in the area. At the same time the study will help the national government to understand their development would not help the majority in the area hence they need to focus their attention to redraft the development policies and work towards more people centered sustainable development policies starting from the Kalpitiya islands and through out the country.
Objectives of the FFM
1. to promote people centered development & to highlight the need for defining development from people's perspective.
2 to focus the attention on impact of unsustainable tourism on the livelihoods of local dwellers.
3 to ensure right to land and livelihoods of small scale producers (peasants & fishers) in Kalpitiya Islands.
4 to do effective evidence based advocacy work for ensuring proper realization of existing human rights standards in our respective countries in South Asia.
5 to highlight this case at national/international level and to build pressure on Sri Lankan government to reconsider this decision & redesign the proposed development activities.
6 to do lobby and advocacy work prior to regional council election in Sri Lanka by end of March,
7 to bring the Kalpitiya local communities in to the network of development displaced people and build up strong land coalition with education & awareness raising,
Expected out come of the FFM
• A detailed report of the Kalpitiya People’s destruction and disturbances due to tourism plans of the government,
• A series information of socio, economic, environmental and political issues faced by the communities in 14 islands of Kalpitiya peninsular,
• A set of recommendations to be intervened by Government, CSOs, regional, provincial and national authorities for sustainable development interventions in Kalpitiya area,
• A set of recommendations for the international agencies, financial institutions, and government for better future for the 14 Kalpitiya Islands and tourism plans as a whole.
• An advocacy paper in which people could lobby and advocate with the various agencies with those who approach for tourism development in the area,
• A group of concerned people emerge from local Land Forum and also extend the solidarity up to international level for sustainable development.
Kalpitiya area in general view:
In Kalpitiya, there are some ruins of colonizers of Dutch, Portuguese of the country. Presently, NAVY is occupied the former Dutch Fort at Kalpitiya mainland. Some locations are still labeled as Dutch bay,[Mohoththuwarama] and Portugal bay are name of few. The historical St. Anne’s shrine is located within 15 Km of Kalpitiya area. Ancient Muslim religious monument and also an ancient pier is situated within 10 Km of the area call Kappaladiya. So, the history of the Kalpitiya area goes up to the ancient history of Arab, Portugal and Dutch periods of the history.

Kalpitiya Islands as Fishing Zone:
Kalpitiya peninsular and the islands in north of Kalpitiya are belong to highly sensitive eco systems in North Western Province of the Country. The Bar Reef marine sanctuary, the Sri Lankan 1st Marine Sanctuary is located at the area. There are number of important threaten coral species found at the Bar Reef Marine sanctuary, which will seriously damage with any small environmental damage or disturbances. Some Sea Grass beds, Algal blooms, sandy & muddy bottoms shows the importance of natural resources in the area. Which shows the high importance of the area. Also, just another Km north of Kalpitiya area, it is Gulf of Mannar and the India had declared Gulf of Mannar marine sanctuary with the importance of the eco system. In the eastern side of the Kalpitiya, it is another very important virgin forest which is known as Wilpatthu national park with 200,000 ha of land coverage, which is the largest national park in the country.
Among aquatic fauna, Dolphins are very common and local tourists also come to watch Dolphins at Kandakuliya, Kudawa, and Kalpitiya area. The Kala Oya estuary, which enrich Puttlam lagoon with fresh water is one of very important water body around the area. Kala oya basin is also known as rich Mangrove forest with endemic mangrove flora & fauna in it. It should be noted, that among the other Mangrove forests in Puttlam district, this is the only remaining mangrove eco system which protected from the destruction of Prawn farms due to the war and related issues at the time of war.
There are around 14 islands located at Kalpitiya with 4400 ha of land coverage, [See the attachment 2] and most of them are very sensitive eco systems. Some of them are erode during the monsoon season and again form during the off season. With this rich bio diversity, natural resources give the way for more than 10,000 fisher families for their living through fisheries in the Kalpitiya area.
Number of fishing families, both migrant and permanent dwellers are living in these 14 islands and their main occupation is fishing, fish processing. Kalpitiya is well known for dry fish productions along the country. Some times ago there were stories that the Madel Owners[Beach Seine owners] abduct school children and bring them as child labours to those islands for dry fish production.
Some fishers use small 18 1/2 ‘ FRP boats, Catamaran, or some large scale Beach Seines for their living. There are 50 beach seines from Kandakuliya, just 4 Km below Kalpitiya and up to Uchchimunei which is one of the furthest point from the peninsular. In one Beach Seine, there are 50-60 workers engage in for fishing operations. So, with all the 50 Beach Seines, there are around 2500-3000 Fish workers engage in fishing activities in Kalpitiya. In Karathivu, Palliyawatta, Pookkulama, Vellamankare, Kandakuliya, Vellamanal, Navaladiya, Keerimundal, Uchchimunai villages and the islands in Kalpitiya peninsular. Economically they are not very poor as their income is comparatively satisfactory, but socially and politically they are backward and voiceless in the society. There are 2 fisheries societies, Beach Seine Operators society and FRP boat operators society formed by NAVY. However, the fisheries cooperative societies are not function though they are nominally established for the sake of attraction of government subsidy or any other benefit from the politicians time to time. The real meaning of organically developed fisheries cooperative societies can not be seen in operation.
In some islands such as Baththalangunduwa, Palliyawaththa majority are migratory fisher families. Their fore fathers have come to those islands and settled there generations back. But, they are not considered as permanent settlers there and no political and other social benefits from the area. For any development program, they are excluded and socially down.
The water facilities are one of the worst for them as they are living within the sea and Lagoon. People get the water from small holes in the sand and collect them using the spoons. Women and girl children face serious difficulties to collect water where there is no water facilities provided by the government water schemes. Some islands,[Mohoththuwarama] it is government water schemes are seen as source of water.
When we study the ethnic composition in the area, the majority are Sinhalese and Muslims while Tamils are also living in the area among others. Roman Catholic churches are seen every island and also Mosques could be seen some of the islands. So, it is Catholics, Muslims and Hindus are living in harmony and this is good example of such ethnic and religious harmony in the country. Education facilities for the children is not satisfactory at the islands and need substantial attention to provide them. Some islands it is primary education [Grade 1-5] where as some islands secondary level education facilities are seen[Grade 1-9]. However, there is no tertiary level education facilities for any of the islands and need to come to the Kalpitiya peninsular for that. So, the level of education is very low among many of the fisher families and among women it is still worse.
Government Plans for Tourism Development:
What government has done so far?
 Government Plans for Kalpitiya area are attached as Annex 2
 Sea Planes to Puttlam Lagoon,-Annex 3[See the Link]
 Lease of land and Sea for tourism,[See the Link]
Proposed programs,- Tourism board web site, 5 islands declared for lease out,
Responses from various agencies,-CCD, PS, DS, Navy, Police,
Issues Faced by the Fisher People in Kalpitiya Islands
Land,- See the annex 4
Fisheries,- Beach seines, FRP boats, Catamarans, Fish workers in the beach seines,
See the attached Map No2.- PRA Map prepared with the People at Mohothtuwara, Dutch Bay fishing community on 16 January, 2011.
Access to resources,- close of roads, covered with barbed wires of the coast,
Loss of customary rights,
Unsecure situation,-
Materials to be Prepared:
a. News Paper articles,
b. Web Links related to land grabbing,

c. Area maps and related information about the sites,
d. Details related to various authorities,
e. Gazette notification on land lease out at Kalpitiya islands,

Organizational structures at Kalpitiya
Government agencies:
a.Pradesheeya sabha, [Regional Council of Kalpitiya]-Elected body which runs ruling party till it dissolved for the elections. The next election will be on the 17th March 2011.
b.Divisional Secretariat- The most important administrative body situated at the area. Mainly, DS is responsible for enforce all the land related rules and regulations in the area. Sea, land related any development activity DS is responsible agency for the implementation of the government plans.
Religious institutions:
a.Catholic Church, - Religion plays vital role in the area. Predominantly catholic majority and the church has lot of influence in development activities of the people. Church plays vital role in education while working hand in hand with the government.
b.Muslim Pallivasal, - Muslims are the second highest in the peninsular as well as in the islands at Kalpitiya. So, the society of the Mosques play very important role on the development activities.
Community Based Organizations:
1.Fisheries Cooperative societies,
Cooperatives are formed by the government and implement government plans & policies among the fisheries communities. Their main role is to issue loans and collect interest from the communities and to provide any government subsidy schemes through the coops. Due to operational weaknesses of the community leaders, the trust on the cooperatives are minimal among the communities.
2.Organization for Protection of Mohoththuwarama People’s Rights,
This is a recently formed society with the involvement of the Puttlam District Fisheries Solidarity Organization. All the fish workers in the various professions of beach seines, small FRP boat operators and Catamaran owners are working closely to protect the rights of the Mohothtuwarama community. This society has done some preliminary organizational activities among the community and had sent the petitions to President and all other concerned authorities urging protect the people’s rights in the community.
3.Organization of Beach Seine operators in Kalpitiya area,
This is a society solely represent the Beach Seine owners hence no other professions represent in the society. This society had formed with the intervention of the Navy at Kalpitiya and guide some of the work in the society by them.
There is no any media institutions operating in the area. But, some concerned few media personals individually engage the people’s issues and to focus the attention in the national media and so on.

Organizational Matters:
Resource Team: Dr. Mrs. Ujjani Halim, Coordinator-FSNSA & Director, IMSE, India, ,
Ms. Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk- Director, Sustainable Development Foundation, Thailand.
Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda, Director, Human Rights Center, Sri Lanka. ,
Ms. Swati Seshadri, Member from Equations, India.
Mr. Rose- Nijera Kori, Bangladesh
Dr. Mrs. Madhabi Roy, India [Rappoteur]

Expected Authorities to meet for FFM [This could be amended with the consultation with the resource team and the Organization teams]
 District Secretary or/ and Additional District Secretary-Puttlam [Confirmed]
 Divisional Secretary-Kalpitiya[Confirmed]
 Coast Conservation Department- Kalpitiya, [Confirmed] Fisheries Inspector- Kalpitiya, District Fisheries Extension Officer-DFEO at Puttlam,[Confirmed]
 Catholic Church Leaders-Kalpitiya,[Confirmed], Chilaw [Not yet confirm-We are in a dialogue to send an email questionnaire for getting views from Bishop of Chilaw.]
 Fisheries Communities at Mohothtuwarama[Dutch Bay],[Confirmed] Illupanthivu, Uchchimunai,[beach Seine owners & workers, FRP small boat fishers, Catamaran fishers,]
 Community members at 3 islands & Kalpitiya mainland, divers for ornament fish collection at Kudawa,
 Fisheries Coops at Kalpitiya, Traders association, Muslim Pallivasal society,
Associated organizations:
Puttlam District Fisheries Solidarity[PDFS]- PDSF is a partner organization of NAFSO which work with fishing communities in Kalpitiya area for more than 15 years. PDFS raise the issue at NAFSO steering committee and also at the PA Steering Committee to take the issue forward and continue to organize people at the grass root level.
NAFSO- Primarily the affected fishers are NAFSO members through its partner organization, Puttlam district fisheries solidarity. So, PDFS will coordinate the work in the ground level for the basic preparatory work. [Annex 5- Introduction of NAFSO]

PA- Praja Abhilasha is a network of organizations which aim is to focus attention on various land issues due to natural and man made causes. Development displacement, Tsunami, War displacement and Human Elephant co-existence issues are the main focus of PA. In Kalpitiya islands, PA engage in development displacement issues among the communities in 14 islands.

Land Forum- Land forum is wider organizational network which focus the land & sea grabbing issues in the present development paradigm in Sri Lanka. NAFSO is a member of the network and will collaborate with them if the network members agreed to do so.
Food Sovereignty Network of Sri Lanka
FSNSL is recently formed among the concerned organizations and individuals on food sovereignty in SL. The group work on voluntary basis to promote the FS and educate the people concern on sustainable agriculture.
IMSE –India – IMSE as a pioneering organization on food sovereignty process in Asia and global level would take part as a part of the resource team as well as steering the international campaign on land & Sea grabbing issues.

Duration: 23-27 February 2011.

Proposed Sites to be visited & Authorities to be met:
Time table:[Proposed]
23rd Feb. – Arrival of Resource Team
Afternoon -Briefing session with the organizers
Night Stay at Negombo [Ocean View Guest House/ Silvas Hotel-Sea Street, Negombo]
24th Feb.-
Morning- Meet ADS-Puttlam & DFEO-Puttlam

Night stay at Kalpitiya

25th Feb.
Morning - Meet local authorities- DS-Kalpitiya, CCD-Kalpitiya, FI-Kalpitiya, NAVY officers
Afternoon- Meet Parish Priest-Kalpitiya, Muslim Pallivasal Society, Traders Association,
Night stay at Kalpitiya
26th Feb.
Morning – Leave for Kalpitiya Islands- Illuppanthivu, Uchchimunai islands,
Meeting with Mohothtuwarama community at 3.00pm,
Night stay at Negombo
27th Feb.
Morning- Debriefing session with NAFSO, FSNSL, PA, Land Forum group at NAFSO, Negombo
Discussion on Future Plans, Collaborative activities with related agencies, Possible International campaign,
Afternoon- Media Briefing,[Press Release]

Coordination of the FFM :
Ms. Geetha Lakmini, NAFSO –Sri Lanka[+94 77 318 45 24] &
Dr. Ujjani Halim, FSNSA-India.
Mr. Francis Raajan, Coordinator, Praja Abhilasha Network[+94-77 922 72 60]
Financial Assistance : Food Sovereignty Network of South Asia.
Praja Abhilasha Network, Sri Lanka
NAFSO, Sri Lanka.
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