Following the 2004 tsunami, fishing communities that had lived by the sea for time immemorial were being permanently relocated to houses several kilometres inland, ostensibly to protect them from another tsunami. They could not afford the daily return journey to the coast, forcing many to abandon fishing. Without an alternative means to earn a living, many became dependent on government handouts, taking away their dignity and forcing them into poverty.
Meanwhile, tourism developments along the southern coast have flourished. Large, internationally-owned hotels jostle for space with smaller, locally run establishments, their privatised beaches leaving little room for fishermen to store boats and nets.
Due to the increasing levels of civil conflict in the north and east of the country (which culminated in the government’s ousting of the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009) tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka fell since 2006.
The Project and Campaign
Tourism Concern worked with local organisations to raise coastal communities’ awareness of their land and livelihood rights, and of the threats posed by tourism development. Our project sought to empower coastal groups and peoples to claim and protect their rights, and to raise awareness of these issues in the UK.
Although the escalating civil war made this an exceptionally challenging project to deliver, our committed project partners managed to reach out to numerous communities, schools and colleges, helping to foster critical debates and sensitisation around tourism, livelihoods and displacement.