By H.M.Dharmapala, and Kusal Chamath
Sea erosion in the coastal belt in Mount Lavinia, Dehiwala and Ratmalana areas had worsened with many more families, the majority being those of fishermen, being left to the mercy of the lashing waves that destroy houses and other property.
They said the threat of sea erosion was increasing every year and that more than 100 houses had been destroyed during the last four years.
Residents pointed out that hundreds of houses along the beach were in imminent danger.
They said the authorities promised to provided blocks of land in safer locations for them to settle but no action had been taken yet.
They were of opinion that sea erosion worsened after implementing the Port City project.
A resident of Wedikanda, Ratmalana, H. Nishantha Perera said 17 houses in the Wedikanda area alone were destroyed by waves last year and that his family was living in constant fear of her house being washed away.
“My family has been living in this area for more than 20 years and depended on the fishery. My parents and grandparents were traditional fishermen who lived here. Hundreds of houses in front of my mine had been destroyed due to the sea erosion and my family is compelled to stay here for want of land.
“The distance between the beach and the railway line is less than 12 metres. In the past, the edge of the beach was more than 100 metres away. The boulders laid by the Coast Conservation Department at times have been buried in the sand. The Municipal Council has provided water and electricity to our houses and we could live a life of average comforts. After filling of the sea under the Port City project the situation has worsened.
“Majority of the people in the area are living in constant fear. When we are displaced the officials would provide us with dry ration without providing a permanent solution. In the past, the distance from the human habitats to the edge of the beach was more than 150 metres, but now the beach with all those houses is washed away.
“Even the railway line is in danger. It is not more than 10 metres from the edge of the beach undergoing erosion,” he said.
However Ratmalana Divisional Secretary D.A.H. Piyatilleka said sea erosion along the coastal belt from Dehiwala to Ratmalana was experienced every year, but it worsened this year.
He said many of the families living in the endangered area wanted blocks of land in the towns and they were not prepared to settle in the proposed areas and that it was not possible to find land in areas of their choice.
A resident of Dehiwala P.A. Sunil said that even after the tsunami disaster, the distance from the houses to the edge of the beach was more than 20 metres. He pointed out that a vast area of the beach had undergone erosion and the waves were now lashing against the houses.
“Sea erosion has deepened the sea off the beach, compelling us to give up offshore fishing with catamarans. Offshore fishing is not possible now and most of the fishermen have to work under the fish merchants, who own multi-day trawlers.
“Several housing schemes for those affected by the tsunami disaster were built, but influential individuals who have not even witnessed the disaster had received houses.
“Authorities would only provide us with shelter in school buildings and temples when displaced but they never focus attention on resolving the issue. My family of six children is facing danger,” he said.
A resident of the affected area as their last report requested the Ministry of Mega Polis and Western Development to look into their grievances and to resolve the issue.
Divisional Secretary Piyatilleka pointed out that several others who received plots had put up shanties along the beach again after selling their plots.
He said that steps would be taken to provide relief to affected families through Grama Niladharies.