Monday, 20 December 2010

Stop Sea Plane Project in Negombo Lagoon

Hotline Asia Urgent Appeals -- UA101220(8)

Stop Sea Plane Project in Negombo Lagoon

20 December 2010

Action Requested || Sample Letter || Background
Please respond before 20 January 2010

Negombo Lagoon (on west coast of Sri Lanka, approximately 37 km from the capital, Colombo) is being dredged and excavated for the Sea Plane Project which endangers the livelihood of about 15,000 local people and the maritime ecology.

Although the Minister of Port and Aviation claimed that the Sea Plane Project would bring no destruction to Negombo Lagoon, dredging process of the Lagoon started at the end of November, without proper procedure such as Environmental Impact Assessment and consultation with the affected people.

On 17 November 2010, fishermen association and human rights activists organized a protest against the damage of Negombo Lagoon, with participation of around 1,000 protestors, including fishermen, religious leaders and human rights workers. Although the construction of the sea plane landing port has been halted, it is temporary only.

On 18 November 2010, Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president's younger brother, expressed that he could have ordered Navy to disperse the crowd. He added that the government would continue the construction “at any cost”.

The project, as part of the Mahinda Chinthanaya development programme, is expected to provide sea planes to promote tourism in areas which are difficult to reach (AsiaNews). Hence, the Sea Plane Project is likely to introduce construction of other tourist facilities which will imperil the Lagoon further by waste, noise and water pollution, affecting the valuable ecological system as well as livelihood of the fisherfolks and fishing-related economy in Negombo Lagoon area.

Action Requested
Please write polite letters expressing your concern about the imminent destruction of environment of Negombo Lagoon and the livelihood of local people in Negombo. Urge the authorities to terminate the Sea Plane Project in Negombo Lagoon and withdraw all machines from the Lagoon area.
Send letters to:
  1. President Mahinda Rajapaksa
    Presidential Secretariat,
    Colombo 1, SRI LANKA
Fax: +94-11-2446657
  1. Hon. Dayasritha Thisera
    Deputy Minister of Port & Aviation
    No.19, Chaithya Road, Colombo 1, SRI LANKA
Fax: +94-11-2435142
  1. 3. Dr. Nalaka Godahewa
    Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority,
    No.80, Galle Road, Colombo 3, SRI LANKA
Fax: +94-11-2382209
Send copies to:
  1. Central Environment Authority
    104, Denzil Kobbekaduwa Mawatha,
    Battaramulla, SRI LANKA
  1. Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
    Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
    3rd Floor, New Secretariat, Maligawatta,
    Colombo 10, SRI LANKA
Fax: +94-11-2449170
  1. Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
    Ministry for the Environment
    82 Rajamalwatta, Road Battaramulla, SRI LANKA
Fax: +94-11-2877288
  1. Diplomatic representatives of Sri Lanka in your countries.

Sample Letter

We are writing with grave concern about the local people living in the area of Negombo Lagoon area.

We learnt that Sri Lanka government is constructing a sea plane landing port in Negombo Lagoon, in attempt to boost tourism. We are deeply worried that the landing port is only a starting point of deterioration of people's livelihood as well as the ecology of the Lagoon, as the Sea Plane Project is likely to be followed by much more entertainment and luxury facilities for tourists.

Negombo Lagoon has been declared as a special management area under Articles 28 & 29 of Fisheries Management Act 1996 No.2. The Lagoon provides not only livelihood to 15,000 people, but also abundant maritime resources to the world.

We are worried that further human rights violation will be caused by the forceful implementation of the Sea Plane Project, especially when Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse, said to protestors against the Project on 18 November that, the Sea Plane Project would continue at any cost, and asked the protestors to disperse from the site immediately or face consequences. He added that orders have been given to the Navy. Moreover, we are aware that leaders of the protestors, Mr. Aruna Roshantha and Mr. Marcus Anthony Fernando, have once been arrested by police merely for distributing leaflets which explained impacts of the Project.

We appreciate more chance to visit your beautiful country, but, as visitors, we hope to see the beautiful landscape and to experience authentic lifestyle of local people rather than people suffering from tourism development. The current Sea Plane Project will only eliminate attractiveness of the country. Thus, we urge your government to immediately terminate the Sea Plane Project and withdraw all the machines from the Lagoon area.

Negombo Lagoon

Negombo Lagoon, one of the most resourceful marshy lands in Asia, has been providing livelihood to about 15,000 fishing population who are small-scale fishermen and fishing-craftsman. Reciprocally, the inhabitants of the area have protected this precious environment with their thorough knowledge of the natural environment.

Deputy Minister had promised fishermen that he would never agree to dig the Lagoon to implement the Sea Plane Project as it would destroy even fish breeding in the lagoon. However, without notification to the fishermen, the project has started with dredging the most productive area of the Lagoon.

Impacts of the Sea Plane Project

The Sea Plane Project, which is likely to be followed by construction of other facilities such as tourist resorts, beach gardens, beer pubs and massage centers, will jeopardize fishing activities and contaminate the maritime ecology.

Deputy Minister Sarath Gunarathne said at a public meeting that, there will be a ban on fishing at the time when sea planes land and take off. The authority planed to have 20 sea planes landing and taking- off a day. Moreover, for tourism purpose, surrounding of Negombo Lagoon may be declared as a high security zone which will further restrict fishermen¡¦s activities.

Sea Plane Project as a Tourism Development Plan

The Sea Plane Project is part of the Mahinda Chinthanaya development program, which follows the plan of "Regaining Sri Lanka" imposed by regime of the United National Party in 2002. The same plan continued after 2005, under Mahinda Rajapakse regime. After the 2010 victory, Mahinda Rajapakse regime has accelerated the plan into a tourism master plan which proposed 14 tourism zones in the country, mainly around the coastal areas. The Sri Lanka¡¦s Ports and Aviation Ministry are planning to build a few more landing ports of sea planes in 12 inland lakes and waterway, such as Parakrama Samudra, Thisawewa, Victoria Lake and Beira Lake.

Development for Whom ?

Although the chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Nalaka Godahewa, said that sustainable tourism is a key principle of the development of Sri Lanka, the name of development has been abused for the vested-interested group, instead of advancing the well-being for all. In the development or redevelopment project, poor people have been displaced from their inhabited land, such as the slum dwellers in Slave Island and 2007-Tsunami- affected- people in Blumandhal. The so-called development project never improves the displaced people's living standard but benefits the investors only.

Godahewa also stated that the tourism would create 500,000 direct and indirect employments. However, development does not only refer to employment and income. Currently, the dwellers in Negombo Lagoon have been depending on various natural resources, which give a yield of Rs 150 million (approx USD 1.36 million) worth of fish annually, to live a simple but self-sufficient life.

"If we lose the lagoon, we¡¦re ready to die...... [The Lagoon is] already so overcrowded and hard to work," a fisherman said. Garment factories cluster around the lagoon is already polluting the water and the authorities have not addressed the problem so far. The Sea Plane Project will further contaminate the river. The fisherman added that if the project led to eviction of fishermen from the lagoon, they would be left with no livelihood.

According to Lankapuvath, a local newspaper, the chairman of the Tourism Development Authority, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, said they will not relocate anybody for tourism purposes.

Moreover, altering Negombo Lagoon will irreversibly change the social and cultural environment. Once the Sea Plane Project as well as the tourism development project accomplished, local people would have to adapt new working skills, and give up the land they have been living on for centuries. Also, they will not be able to bare the cost of living in the tourist area.

Local Source,
Lanka Web,
Live Lanka Net,
Ada Derana and
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement.

News Source:

Monday, 29 November 2010

Seaplane protest: two fisheries union leaders arrested

By Susitha R. Fernando

Two fisheries union leaders who were involved in the campaign against the dredging of the Negombo lagoon for the proposed project to operate seaplanes have been arrested by the police. They were subsequently bailed out after being produced before the Negombo Magistrate.

Aruna Nishantha, chairman of the All Ceylon Fisher Folk Trade Union, and Marcus Fernando a member of the Fisheries Union had been summoned to the Negombo Police Station for their statements to be recorded. They had later been arrested for allegedly creating public unrest and conspiring against the state.

However, they had been produced before the Negombo Magistrate and released on personal bail and ordered to appear before court on December 14.

One of the arrested persons -- the chairman of All Ceylon Fisher Folk Trade Union, Aruna Nishantha, said that two officers from the police intelligence unit had come to his house last morning and questioned him about a protest scheduled to be held later in the day. Mr. Aruna Nishantha had said that it was not a protest but only a public awareness campaign to distribute leaflets in villages around Negombo and that it had been cancelled.

News Source:

Friday, 19 November 2010

Fishermen protest against sea plane project in the Negombo lagoon

November 19, 2010 @ 3:34 am

shermen operating in the Negombo lagoon held a protest on Wednesday against the digging of the lagoon to launch a sea plane project.

Over 1,000 fishermen and villagers had participated in the protest.
Hundreds of fishing boats had also entered the lagoon to prevent the digging up of the lagoon. The protest had created a tense situation in the area and the protesters had called on the government to shelve the sea plane project.
Convener of the Movement for the Protection of Negombo Lagoon, Herman Kumara told the media that they will not leave the lagoon until the excavation machinery including the backhoe machines are removed from the area.
According to the Movement, the Negombo Lagoon is one of the richest resources in Asia, as it is a Ramsar wetland in Sri Lanka. However, it is not officially included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
– Pix by Kumarasiri Prasad

News Source:

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Negombo fishermen protest sea plane project

By Yohan Perera

The traffic along the Negombo-Katunayake main road was blocked yesterday when the Negombo Lagoon Protection Alliance -- a grouping of fishermen’s associations -- staged a protest over use of the Negombo Lagoon for the sea plane project.

Vehicles coming from Chilaw, Puttalam and Kuliyapitiya were unable to move because of the massive protest.

The protestors charged that the excavation of the Mada Bokka Bay -- one of the richest areas for shrimp will be damaged if the project goes ahead.

“There is no need to disturb or destroy the natural ecosystem of the area,” they said

However United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Gampaha District MP Sudharshini Fernandopulle said Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa had informed that he had ordered the Airport and Aviation Ministry to remove all the equipment stationed in the lagoon. According to reports this had been implemented almost immediately.

She said the minister had also told her that the project would be carried out at a different location in a way that did not harm the fishermen or the lagoon fauna.

A discussion is expected to be held between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Negombo fishermen on the proposed sea plane project which is strongly opposed by the fishermen and the villagers living near the Negombo Lagoon.

Alliance convener Herman Kumara said he hoped a date for the talks would be fixed soon and added that the alliance would meet the president in his capacity as the minister in charge of Ports and Aviation.

Ports and Aviation Ministry had planned to start the Sea Plane Project by January next year using two sea planes initially.

News Source:

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Fishermen protest

Fishermen in the Negombo lagoon protested today (17) against the digging of the lagoon to launch a sea plane project.

Over 1,000 fishermen and villagers had participated in the protest.

Hundreds of fishing boats had also entered the lagoon to prevent the digging up of the lagoon.

The protest had created a tense situation in the area and the protesters had called on the government to shelve the sea plane project.

Convener of the Movement for the Protection of Negombo lagoon, Herman Kumara the media that they will not leave the lagoon until the excavation machinery including backhoe machines are removed from the area.

According to the Movement, the Negombo Lagoon is one of the richest resources in Asia, as it is a Ramsar Wetland in Sri Lanka. After considering the protest, authorities have agreed to suspend work on the project.

Gampaha district MP Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle said the agitation ended after she had mediated.

Economic development minister Basil Rajapaksa was unaware that such a demonstration was to take place, she said, adding that he wanted to resolve the matter through discussion.

Dr. Fernandopulle, who is the SLFP electoral organizer for the area, said even she was not aware of the problem.

News Source:


A tense situation has erupted at the Negombo Lagoon as fishermen opposed to the seaplane project began a protest at the excavation site demanding the project be stopped. The Alliance for Protection of Negombo Lagoon convenor Herman Kumara speaking to Ada Derana said that they will not leave the Negombo Lagoon premises until the excavation machinery including backhoe machines are removed.

Sources told Ada Derana that for excavation backhoes were being used on floaters on the middle of the lagoon, and protestors had surrounded the backhoe machines in their boat. Close to 500 fishermen are currently refusing to leave the site, sources said,

The Alliance for Protection of Negombo Lagoon convened a press conference on November 15 to high light the situation of their struggle where close to 45 fishermen leaders attended. At the press conference Chairperson, Negombo Lagoon Management Authority Ranjith Fernando said that “Negombo Lagoon is one of the richest resources in not only Sri Lanka, but also in Asia. It is a Ramsar Wetland in Sri Lanka. We catch prawns, crabs, fish valued at more than Rs. 200,000 each day. Our prawns and crabs are exported to Japan, Australia, Singapore and even to Europe. So, while we feed our families we feed many other foreigners with the resources of Negombo Lagoon. So, this is not only our problem. It is a problem of many thousands of people. We should say all those people who want to use Seaplanes in Negombo Lagoon that they not only destroy our livelihoods but also they destroy their own precious food source.”

“People are becoming violent as the political leaders of the country are cheating us and they do not listen to the grievances of the fisher people.”

“We do not have any alternative way of living, so people think it is only sacrifice their lives will solve the problem.” Added Ranjith.

News Source: www.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Negombo Fisher Families fears squashed

(Colombo Lankapuvath) More than 5000 fisher families who claim that they will be affected by the Sea Plane Service Project staged a protest in Negombo recently.

According to Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa says they will not relocate anybody for tourism purposes.

At the same time the National Convener of the Fisheries Solidarity Movement, Negombo and Secretary, World Forum of Fisher People, Herman Kumara said that Sea planes will affect the maritime life causing noise, pollution and water disturbances. As a result this will affect fishing and their livelihood lost complained Herman Kumara.

The Negombo Lagoon provides direct livelihood for more than 5000 families of 35 villages around it. Meanwhile another 3500 families solely depend indirectly on the lagoon. All are small scale subsistence fishermen.

According to Fisheries Sources the annual income from the lagoon exceeds to more than Rs.150 Million. In the meantime Negombo lagoon together with Muthurajawala Marsh had been declared as an important Ramsar Wetland in Asia.

Muthurajawala is one of the richest areas fro prawns and fish. If the sea plane route will be located it would cause serious damage to the lagoon. This is the biggest fear of the fisherman added Kumara.

But Chairman Godahewa says that the key principles to the development of Sri Lanka is sustainable tourism. Tourism will also generate 500,000 direct and indirect new employment in the next 05 years and almost 6%of the population if the country will benefit out of tourism added the Chairman.

Sea planes are effective modes of transportation worldwide which saves time and fuel. The Sri Lanka’s Ports and Aviation Ministry plans to use 12 inland lakes and waterways including Beira Lake, Victoria Reservoir, Tisawewa and Parakrama Samudraya as destinations. Along with this a service from the Negombo lagoon to various parts of the country has also been planned added the Chairman.

News Source:

Monday, 1 November 2010


November 01, 2010: Members of the fishing community, who ply their trade in the Negombo lagoon, have strongly opposed the decision taken to land sea planes on the lagoon.

They point out that the move could pose a threat to their livelihood.

Many villagers who live in close proximity to the Negombo lagoon earn a living by engaging in fishing activities at the lagoon due to the ideal conditions prevalent at the location.

Herman Kumara, General Secretary of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples said that there 3,500 were directly dependent on the lagoon, while over 1,500 were indirectly dependent on it.

“Overall, more than 10,000 people and families depend on this lagoon,” he said.

The fishermen point out that landing sea planes on the lagoon could have an adverse impact.

“The fishermen will find it hard to engage in their trade if they land seaplanes here. Therefore, we ask them to stop this,” said one fisherman.

“As the lagoon is a valuable resource for everyone, we should protect it. That is why a majority of fishermen are against this initiative of the government,” he added.

Meanwhile, the fishermen who ply their trade at the Negombo lagoon yesterday engaged in a protest against the landing of sea planes on the lagoon.

The fishermen first went to the St. Jude's Church to attend its annual feast and later attended a special mass to safeguard the lagoon.

Fr. Lester Nonis, Director of the Negombo Catholic Fisheries Activities also expressed his views.

“The fishing community and all other individuals in the country are not against development. We will certainly assist in the development process. These individuals have requested for the Madabokka area to be protected as it is an ideal breeding ground for prawns.

“We have presented a set of alternative proposals. The fishing community urges that these proposals be looked into,” said Fr. Nonis.

Following the religious observances in the church, the fishermen boarded their boats and engaged in a protest.

When inquired on the issue, the Deputy Minister of Ports and Aviation, Dayasritha Thisera said that all parties should come together to resolve the matter.