The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development decided to remove one and half metre portion of the rock boulder in the Auburn Side, Dehiwala sea and to build a breakwater in the same area in January 2017.
This action was requested by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Mahinda Amaraweera, as a solution to the problems faced by the fishermen in the area when entering and returning sea in their boats, according to ministry sources. The minister was not available for comment.
The Kadamaththa, the ‘U’ shaped gap used as the pathway to the sea is affected by this rock boulder in the sea. Waves returning from the sea, as well as waves coming towards the sea combine to form waves as high as 10-15 metres above the sea. This put the lives of fishermen returning home in mortal peril.
The minister has called for an Environmental Feasibility Report concerning the project. It is believed that the coral reef in the area would not be damaged as a consequence of the project. Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department, Director General, B.K. Prabath Chandrakeerthi said that it is difficult to comment on the exact consequences of the project without carrying out an environment impact assessment (EIA) or Initial environment examination (IEE) first. Also the exact design should be known. “It is still in discussion. We would check for the impact on the coastal environment before giving the approval. Generally, if an offshore breakwater is used, sand fill occurs on land. If it is a land-based breakwater, the southern side of it would experience sand fill and the northern side would experience sea erosion.”
On Monday July 6, train services along coastal line were disrupted due to a protest campaign launched by the fishermen. The railway track near Auburn Side, Dehiwala was blocked by the fishermen by placing boats and lighting fires on the track. The protest campaign was launched due to two fisher boats capsizing as a result of the increased wave strength, a consequence of the rock boulder present in the sea about 800 metres from the coast. “The boats capsized as the families and friends were watching from the shore. It was with great difficulty the fishermen were saved. They battled between life and death for some time. The boats also underwent severe damage,” says Kumara Gomes, Secretary, Mount Lavinia United Fishermen’s Association (Galkissa Eksath Grameeya Dheewara Sanvidanaya).
This was by no means a newly surfaced issue to the fishermen in the area. It has been there for the last 100 years or so. “In 2013 five lives were lost in a similar accident at the same place. It took about two to three days to recover the last body. To the best of my memory at least one life is lost due to a boat capsizing at that particular place, every year, during this season,” says Gomes. For fishermen from Panadura to Modera, Uburn Side is the only location to set sail from. Although the issue has prevailed for years, no effective action has been taken so far. “Right now what we demand is for a kind of breakwater near the rock boulders. This should prevent further accidents taking place in this location due to intensified wave action and protect the gap from where we go to sea,” says Gomes.
Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, Secretary, W.M.M.R.Adikari commented that the Panadura fishery harbour cannot be utilized by the fishermen due to the lack of security as a result of technical issues. Modera fishery harbour has been allocated to the private sector. “2015 budget has provided no provisions to build an anchorage for the fishermen in the Dehiwala area. We are opting to request funds from 2017 budget to find a permanent sustainable solution for this issue. The location would be based on environmental clearance. The project would cost about 150 million Sri Lankan rupees.”
Colombo University, Department of Geography, Dr Ranjana Piyadasa commented that an in-depth feasibility study including coastal morphology, wave direction and wave behaviour should be carried out before such an action is taken. Regarding the removal of the portion of the rock boulder he said, “Why are we damaging a natural occurrence that has been there for thousands of years. This should have definite impact on the environment. It could be found out by an EIA or IEE before proceeding further.”
One and half metre portion of the rock boulder in the Auburn Side, Dehiwala Sea would be removed. Also, a breakwater would be built in the same area. According to Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department, Director General, B.K. Prabath Chandrakeerthi, if an offshore breakwater is used, sand fill occurs on land. If it is a land based-breakwater, the southern side of it would experience sand fill and the northern side would experience sea erosion