Sri Lanka: President’s Brother Exploiting Rumassala

Sir Arthur C. Clark in a number of his research papers mentioned about the significant magnetic anomaly close to Unawatuna which he attributes to a meteor strike. 

by Ravindra Kariywasam
Translated by Mahinda P. Liyanage

Oh, fabulous Rumassala
Charming sandy beach on Thambapanni
With pearl bead smiles over
Vended wholly! Were you..?

Seashore so mild and Slender
Are you being made,
So much defenseless
By Gluttonous Araliya,
The Black in White
Or else,
The Peril as guardian?

The foregoing is a slightly modified version of Late veteran singer GunadasaKapuge’s famous song about ruthless manipulation of natural resources of the country. I presumed it would be aptly fit as a prelude to this brief write-up on the devastating consequences on the globally renowned Rumassala sanctuary, Unawatuna beach and exotic coral reef of Rumassala caused by a giant hotel complex which is being constructed by DadlySirisena, a well-known local business magnate who is also the brother of President Maitripala Sirisena.

A massive hotel project which includes over 250 rooms covering an extent of 10 acres and 6.1 perches (A.10 R.0 P.6.1) at Yaddehimulla in Unawatuna in the Galle district is currently being constructed on an agreement entered into with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka on May 4, 2017. The hotel project belongs to the Araliya Hotel Beach Private Limited. An environmentally exotic and highly sensitive region is at present being terribly devastated by this project.

Unawatuna once an unknown hamlet began to be exposed to the world following the precious disclosure of its natural freshness and instrumental nature marvels of warm sunny beaches, in shore reef, mangroves and lush green groves rich with glamorous bio diversities by Sir Arthur C Clarke the British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, and undersea explorer in his “The View from Serendib”

The world came to know about Unawtuna through his several works including the above. After reading books by Sir Arthur the foreigners though in small numbers began to visit Unawatuna.

Unawatuna beach is recognized as one of the most charming seashores of the world. The same reputation and recognition still remain. The tourists who visited Unawatuna in large numbers since its transformation into a prominent tourist destination of Southern Sri Lanka preferred homestead tourism. Hence Unawatuna is expressly popular and recognized among the overseas holidaymakers as a Community Based Eco-tourism Destination.

Sir Arthur C. Clark in a number of his research papers mentioned about the significant magnetic anomaly close to Unawatuna which he attributes to a meteor strike. Therefore environmentalists and nature activists alleged that the construction of a massive 16 story edifice for a hotel complex would cause a momentously detrimental nature impact in future to this area with priceless nature resources including the Rumassala Sanctuary established and proclaimed under gazette notification 1269/25 of 2003.

Owing to the heavy machinery used at the construction site the entire terrain is shaken. In Rumassala,  soil layers considered as very similar to that of the Western Ghats of the Indian peninsula are millions of years old. The location is also a very rare site that can be used for research work on continental drift. The adverse impact of the giant hotel project is a threat to this “hot- spot” with biological diversity, ecologists claim.

Due to the fact that the entire zone is shaken owing to the use of heavy machinery at the site the deep-rooted soil layer is fast deteriorating which will lead to speedy sea erosion generating a possibility of future landslide. Following a worldwide research carried out in 2011 the area in and around Rumassala and Unawatuna was identified to be the zone with the lowest gravitational acceleration in the world. Such an environmentally sensitive and exquisite locality is being abused due to the adverse consequences of an ecologically destructive project allegedly under the patronage of the President of the country. The Portuguese who certainly were familiar with its lovely natural outlook Unawatuna they named it as Buena Vista which means the “Good View”

Within the stretch of the land on which the hotel is being constructed there is a rich mangroves expanse in which exotic plants similar to floras those can be seen at Western Ghats of India do exist.

Among the exotic floras there are some infrequent plants such as “Mal Kaddol” (Bruguier hexangular), “Muna Mal” (Mimusopselengi), and “DiyaDanga” (Dolichandronespathacea) etc.

Moreover most significantly there are several plants of “MuduDelum” (Xylocarpusrumphii) on the grounds of famous “VelleDevol” and on the new hotel site as well which are categorized as much endangered plants in the Red Data Book 2012. It is also reported that there are only 8 such plants throughout the entire island. Moreover there are significantly endangered floras which should be strictly protected and conserved. However it is regrettable that these priceless nature treassures are being destroyed at the hands of the very same authorities who are bound and responsible to protect these vanishing species of floras amazingly under influence of the President of the Country who is also the Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment. Has the President let this ancient ground to be the burial grounds of those rare plants, people question!

The authenticity of the Environmental Impact Assessment issued on this project is also suspicious and disputed as a number of endangered species whose homeland is this stretch of land are living here. DrHerrich-Schäffer, a German entomologist and physician discovered for the first time from this region some special species of mammals and reptiles including a butterfly identified as “Dark palm dart” (Telicotaancilla) , “Kurulu Goya” (Accipiter badius ), “VehiLihiniya” (Hirundosp:), “RathmuhunathKottoruwa” (Magalaimazeylonica)

On the other hand an ancient Canal which flows to the sea through this expanse is also currently blocked owing to the ongoing construction works of the hotel. The owner of the project attempted to discharge the waste water blocked in this “OlandaEla” (Dutch Canal) into the sea where Rumassala Coral Reef is existent. However the people of the area objected to that move at a meeting held with the officials of the Coast Conservation Department and Project owner DudlySirisena. .

The most severe allegation corresponding to the project is that the hotel management plans to release 60% of waste water after treatment to the sea on completion of the project. Waste water treatment is a complicated process which needed a scientific approach as waste water consists of numerous toxic constituents. So the Waste Water Management is a vastly costly exertion.

If the owners release waste water with toxic constituents into the sea it will have serious impact on the glamorous corals and marine creatures.

In his research papers, Thomas Goro mentioned that there were over 480 species of marine creatures in the related areas of Rumassala Coral reef. It was before the tsunami catastrophe in 2004.

Nevertheless the marine biologists affirm that many of those diverse marine organism and plants are existent to date. Due to the illogical and heedless dispose of waste of diverse sorts into the sea for long the sea water around Rumassala and Unawatuna have been already polluted. Unawatuna now needs no new hotels or concrete structures. It needs a scientifically formulated methodical environment plan.

Regardless of the real issues of Unawatuna Tourism area the Ministry of Environment and Coast Conservation Department are sponsoring a disastrous environmental manipulation by a business tycoon.

It is a punishable offence to abuse wildlife and plant life under Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. If any individual or an organization is acting against the environmental provisions of the ordinance such a person should be dealt with legal actions.

Conversely, instead of preserving the environment the respective ministry and the Department which come under the purview of the President are providing protection and support to the brother of the President to manipulate nature laws according to his whims and fancies. The national assets and resources are not a legacy of a family.

The mega Araliya hotel project if not regulated appropriately and objectively it will eliminate the ecological appeal of Rumassaala and Unawatuna where people have lived peacefully since times immemorial. Time is opportune for the public to rally round and protest against these destructive moves by so-called gluttonous entrepreneurs.

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