By Nadia Fazlulhaq
Ports, hotels will cause erosion near and far
For Shanthi of the Sri Dharmaarama Road fishing village in Ratmalana and Kamala Fernando of Ransigamawella off Wennappuwa, the coming days are a struggle to protect their houses from the strong waves that are rapidly swallowing up the shore.
Thousands of families living bordering the south-western coasts and north-western coasts are at a growing risk of coastal erosion, experts fear.
The latest danger was reported in Ratmalana where about 20 houses were destroyed with chairs, mats, pots and pans of poor fishing families sailing away with the waves.
Prof. W.N. Wilson, senior lecturer in geography at the Colombo University, said more than half the country’s population lives in coastal areas and the coastline from Kalpitiya to Tangalle is more prone to coastal erosion-related disasters.
|Sea erosion in Ransigamawella, off Wennappuwa. Pix by M.A. .Pushpa Kumara and Rekha Tharangani Fonseka|
He said the beaches of Mt. Lavinia, Ratmalana, Wellawatte, Wattala, Poruthota, off Wennappuwa, Marawila, Kalpitiya, Weligama, Beruwala, Ahangama, Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna would be more affected by erosion due to human-made factors and natural factors such as the south-west monsoon, disturbances in the atmosphere, rough seas and strong currents.
He said crystalline rocks, corals, beach sand and rock debris found in the coastal terrain acted as natural barriers but these were being destroyed in places.
If another tsunami struck, the western and southern belts would experience greater destruction due to increased development activities and settlements bordering the ocean
“With natural barriers destroyed and coast eroding one metre annually, strong waves can easily enter the land. Environment impact assessments and vulnerability studies should continue with erosion prevention given priority. Most of the wooden groynes, structures built out from seashore to control erosion, were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami,” he said.
Prof. Wilson said the northern parts of the country were vulnerable due to turbulences and rain disturbances in the Bay of Bengal.
Thousands of families live along the southern and western coasts that are highly vulnerable to coastal erosion.
Swarna Perera, member of a 300-strong fishing community off Negombo, said she is currently living in her ninth house with all previous houses, whether built of brick or wood, lost to the sea.
“Where are we supposed to go?” she asked. “The authorities give us money but that is not sufficient to buy a plot of land and build a house.”
Kamala Fernando, a resident of Ransigamawella, a coastal village off Wennappuwa, said during the 40 years the sea had encroached about 300m into the land.
“There used to be so much space for me to rear pigs and poultry. Now there is no space at all. After the tsunami, coastal erosion.