These fishermen all at sea

Published : 12:02 am  July 21, 2018 | No comments so far |  |  (121) reads | 

Once a flourishing fishing coast, the stretch from Mt. Lavinia to Moratu-Modara has now become a no-go zone for fishermen, turning them into manual labourers

By H.M.Dharmapala and Kusal Chamath

Traditional fisherfolk in the coastal belt from Mount Lavinia to Moratu-Modara are in a predicament due to a series of issues affecting them that hampered their livelihood.


They said that their representations in this regard to successive governments for more than 40 years had fallen on deaf ears and that they would be compelled to leave fishing and to make a living as manual labourers. They said that several fishermen were already working as helpers in construction sites.


A traditional fisherman of Dehiwala, Neville Bentarage (55) said that the coastal belt from Dehiwela to Wellawatte bridge had undergone sea erosion causing extensive damage to the land and hundreds of houses and that the fishermen had lost a vast area of the land which had been used as a natural boat anchorage.


“We are facing hardship for want of an auction area. We have been left to the mercy of the fish merchants, who buy our fish for a song on the beach.


“Shanty -dwellers use the beach to ease themselves for want of toilet facilities causing extensive environmental damage and preventing fishermen from using the beach for fish trade. 

 

Another fisherman, Siripala Sembapurumarachchi (46) of Ratmalana, said many fishermen who earned a large income to provide comforts to their families lost their livelihood and that they were now working as labourers in other areas to keep their head above the water.


“If we give interviews to the media we would run the risk of being assaulted. Any relief granted by the Government would be denied to us by the officials. Fisheries organizations staged protests on their demands and even obstructed the railway line but to no avail,” he said.


Another fisherman, Siripala Sembapurumarachchi (46) of Ratmalana, said many fishermen who earned a large income to provide comforts to their families lost their livelihood and that they were now working as labourers in other areas to keep their head above the water.


“After the tsunami disaster the sea off the beach was deepened and we had to give up off-shore fishing with catamarans. Off-shore fishing is not possible now and we are compelled to depend on fish merchants who own multi-day trawlers.


“We have been reduced to the state of labourers working under rich businessmen.


The Secretary of the Mount Lavinia Fishermen’s Society Kumara Gomes said it was rather difficult to launch boats at several locations along the sea-belt due to a huge rock at Kadawatte and several fishermen had got into difficulties when the boats hit the rock.


“Our requests to the Coast Conservation Department and the Fisheries Department to break a part of the rocks and to prevent the recurrence of similar accidents had been ignored.


“We made representations on issues affecting us to several Ministers of Fisheries but their request was that funds were not available. They only promise to implement projects with allocations for the next year.


“A large number of houses were destroyed in the tsunami and by sea erosion. The government only declared the sea-belt a tsunami buffer zone without resolving the issues affecting us,” he said.

 

  • Govt. declared it a tsunami buffer zone, without making alternative measures to people
  • Several issues to be addressed