Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"A second Tsunami in the making…"


Gihan Perera is an old acquaintance, currently visiting his country of origin, Sri Lanka. He is chronicling his current visit to the coastal village his people came from at his blog.

Some of his descriptions are devastating:

We headed toward Galle and the office of the Southern Fisheries Solidarity office. We did not travel far before we encountered amazing destruction. Just before Hikaduwa, in an area called Thelawatta, began a never ending campground. Literally, the entire area looked like an American national park campground. What appeared to be campground facilities were the foundations of what used to be homes. Thousands upon thousands of them all down Galle road. The only thing that remained were fragments of homes and churches with huge holes through brick walls, or just a brick wall, but mostly just brick remnants. I would say it was like a war zone, but there was little debris for the amount of destruction. The sea had taken that too. It looked more like a giant coral reef along a sea bed. Every once in a while people like fish would come out of the walls, behind which they are still living.

But bad as the tsunami was, the Sri Lankan government's push for tourist development is about to make the lives of the survivors even worse. Telling the traumatized people that another wave will certainly come soon, fisherpeople are forced to move inland.

In their place, tourist hotels will be built on the beaches. Gihan again:

It is a massive plastic reconstruction. The plan forces fishermen and entire communities to move out and make way for modern superhighways, shopping centers, and mega hotels.

It is a disaster.…Those who suffered the most are again being washed away. And it won't work. The coastal areas are already experiencing a tremendous population increase and heavy land pressures as more and more people are displaced from farming lands in the interior. This policy will result in nothing but squatter zones along the tourist belt and a never-ending process of trying to bulldoze them.

And OUR aid we've donated is going toward the forced removals:

What’s worse, the scheme is being funded by YOUR generositiy. All the international aid organizations are being forced to funnel their money and programs through the Sri Lankan government. All the good people who thought they were giving their money to help directly effected communities, may actually be helping to displace them.

The least we can do is demand that our government and the charities to which we contributed not add to human misery in Sri Lanka.

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