New spoke in Port City wheel
Now fishing community up in arms:
A coalition of Catholic priests and nuns in Sri Lanka said they stand
with the fishing community in their protest against a controversial port
project in Colombo.
The fishing community is
protesting against the Colombo Porty City Project.
Pic: Courtesy yamu.lk
Fisherfolk are protesting the new Colombo Port City project along
with civil society groups and environmentalists, who say it will
adversely impact fish breeding areas, damage coral reefs, cause coastal
erosion and disrupt their livelihoods.
The project was halted but is set to resume following the
government's environmental impact assessment report.
Church officials and members of the fishing community said the report
did not take into account their concerns and that authorities had not
talked to them prior to assessment report.
More than 100 fishermen joined by priests and nuns, marched through
Colombo to the government Central Environmental Authority office on Jan.
6 to protest.
They complained that their livelihoods are affected due to the Port
City project that is located in proximity to fish breeding areas.
They want the government to allow them to fish in these same waters
as they have done for generations. At present they are not allowed to
enter waters that are considered a fish bank and more construction is
likely to kill the fish in the future, they said.
The Catholic Church has a group of priests and nuns working against
this project and is representing the fisherfolk who are mostly Catholic
- owing to the church's focus on marginalized communities.
Father Sarath Iddamalgoda of Colombo, who heads the group, said they
are planning a protest walk to the Coast Conservation Department to
submit their objections and comment on the report. The construction
would displace about 50,000 families living on the coast.
Different groups from Negombo, Kapungoda, Dehiwala, Moratuwa and
Panadura villages had already arrived in Colombo to hand over the
document drafted by them to authorities.
U. Milton Fernando, a fisherman for 48 years, said that the
government should have consulted fishermen prior to its commencement as
this affects their livelihood and that of the youth.
Charity Sister Noel Christine Fernando said that fishermen oppose the
project as well as the recently published report.
"Fishermen objections detail how the fishing grounds would be
destroyed and the reduction of water levels due to rock excavation for
filling the port city areas adversely impacts biodiversity," she said.
Environmental activist Sajeewa Chamikara said the government's
adamant decision to go ahead with the project despite the issues raised
also is a cause for concern.