Sri Lanka has a coastline running approximately 1600 km where about one-third of the population lives. Of late, natural and man-made phenomena have heightened coastal erosion, causing danger and environmental degradation along many coastlines. Erosion takes place when wind, waves and long-shore currents move sand from the shore and deposit it elsewhere.

Residents in areas like the Negombo-Pitipana coastal belt in Morawala, Udappuwa in Puttalam, Calido Beach in Kalutara and the coastal belt in Mount Lavinia, Dehiwala and Ratmalana, have been left unsafe and destitute after their houses and properties were washed away by the sea. Additionally, the loss of beaches and coastal biodiversity harms tourist attractions, causing long-term adverse economic consequences.

Houses destroyed in Pitipana

The land area which extends from Pitipana-Morawala to Thalahena-Peruwa has experienced severe sea erosion. Area residents complained that many of their houses had been inundated with sea water that swept in. Such houses were destroyed. They added that strong winds had created giant waves, making it dangerous for them to stay indoors; forcing them to flee to higher elevations in search of safety.

Udappuwa fishing community in danger

The fisheries village of Udappuwa has been hit by sea erosion, causing much anxiety in residents who complained that many of their huts had been razed to the ground by ravaging waves. Residents added that the beach access road had also been washed away. Mundalama Divisional Secretary Wijani Wasanthika said that she had received reports from Grama Niladharis regarding the precarious situation, and vowed to provide immediate relief to affected families.

Meanwhile, Puttalam District Asst. Director of Cost Conservation Maduni Fernando said that sea erosion had heightened this year, and that steps would be taken to place protective boulders along affected beaches, as and when allocations were made. She added that special attention would be given to areas inhabited by fishing communities.

Kalutara sand bar washed away

Calido Beach in Kalutara has experienced major sea erosion due to continuing rough weather. Area residents explained that the picturesque sand bar between the ocean and the Kaluganga lagoon had been washed away last year, and that a vast area of beach in Kalutara North had been eroded by encroaching waves. Minister Rajitha Senaratne, while inspecting the area, said that steps could be taken to re-build the beach by bringing sand from the ocean as proposed by Coast Conservation Department (CCD) engineers.

Over 200 houses affected

Ravaging waves have eroded the coast in Dehiwala, Mount Lavinia, Ratmalana and Moratuwa and destroyed and damaged over 100 houses. Area residents said that a further 100 houses were in danger. Restaurants and business establishments catering to tourists have also been badly hit, adding to people’s woes. Marauding waves have extensively damaged over ten restaurants while leaving about six houses completely destroyed.  Several hotel owners said that the authorities were ignoring their repeated requests to construct a strong breakwater to prevent further erosion.

A senior official of the Ratmalana Divisional Secretariat said that coastal erosion from Dehiwala to Ratmalana happened every year, but it had worsened this year. He said that many affected families had requested land in the city and were not prepared to move elsewhere to lands allocated by the Divisional Secretariat. He stressed it was not possible to find land in the areas they wanted. “Several others who received land have re-erected shanties along the beach after selling their land,” the official added.