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Press Release: National Seminar on Development Displacement

Written By Joining Hands Network on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | 2:00 AM

A “National Seminar on Development Displacement” which demanded to Stop Land grabbing in the name of development: Ensure Life and Livelihoods, was held on Tuesday, 06th September 2011 in Colombo. Organised by the Praja Abhilasha network and the Land Forum of Sri Lanka, the seminar focused on land grabbing and the displacement and loss of land faced by people due to large-scale development and tourism projects initiated by the Government of Sri Lanka.
Representatives of communities affected by different development and tourism projects all over the island gathered at the seminar to share their experiences and to highlight the adverse consequences of these projects on their homes, families and livelihoods and most importantly, their rights; from farmer groups in Panama, Balangoda, Moneragala who are losing their land to a special tourism zone to urban poor communities in Colombo to be evacuated in the name of urban development to fisher groups in Kalpitiya, Rathgama, Negombo and Polonnaruwa losing their land and access to the sea/reservoirs/lakes/lagoons to tourism projects and the spread of the seaplane project, Golf courts etc. Displaced people due to Special Economic Zone and also for proposed second coal power plant at Sampur, Trincomalee, displaced communities of Mullikulam, Mannar due to high security zones and military purposes were also joined hands with their southern counterpart in solidarity with the struggle against the land grabbing.
The seminar was an initial step towards ensuring that the voices and concerns of these people were heard in the larger public domain. It was the foundation to the building up a collective of affected groups which would connect over common issues brought on by development and tourism, threatening their very existence. Also, opposed so called Mahinda Chinthana development program which is the carbon copy of Regaining Sri Lanka, which was defeated by Sri Lankan people in 2004 which promote the Neo Liberal Economic Policies to hand over natural capital to private ownership with out considering the small scale producers, small farmers, small fishers, pastoralists who contribute the food security, provide job opportunities, and sustain the life and livelihoods and conserve the nature.
The main demands of the participants who participated were, “We need a development which protect our lives and livelihoods and we want our Land Back.”
Following the seminar, a peaceful demonstration was held outside the seminar venue with farmers, fisher folk and activists participating to further highlight issues surrounding the loss of land related rights and displacement due to development and tourism projects. It was also about mobilizing public support for communities struggling to hold on to their rights to land and livelihoods and access to resources such as water and a demand that the rights of these people and communities be respected and not be sacrificed in the name of development.
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