Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi, SLTDA Chairman Kishu Gomes, SLTDA Director General Upali Rathnayake, UDA Chairman Dr. Jagath Munasinghe and UDA Director Western Province Research and Development Janak Ranaweera at the event
By Nishel Fernando
The Urban Development Authority (UDA) has entered into a partnership with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) to develop a tourism development master plan, to promote sustainable tourism development activities in seven existing as well as emerging tourism hubs—Kalpitiya, Arugam Bay, Ella, Pinnawala, Nuwara Eliya, Beruwala and Hikkaduwa.
The UDA signed the MoU with the SLTDA last week to carry out a study in this regard, to identify tourism development zones in these areas and to develop specific guidelines for tourism development and tourist-related activities, to avoid ad hoc tourism development and to avoid undesirable activities. Following the study, the identified tourism development zones in the areas, along with the specific guidelines, will be gazetted under the UDA law.
“These areas are already identified as tourism destinations. The scope involving the project is to prepare a development plan, which will bring development guidelines to these areas, including certain regulations to control the tourism development activities,” UDA Chairman Dr. Jagath Munasinghe told Mirror Business.
“These guidelines will also help to promote investments and to develop the necessary infrastructure in these areas,” he added. The 18-month project is divided into two phases. Under phase one, the zoning plans will be prepared for Ella, Arugam Bay, Kalpitiya and Nuwara Eliya, which would be followed by Beruwala, Hikkaduwa and Pinnawala.
The SLTDA in a statement said most of the development activities in the post-war period were carried out in an irresponsible manner, in the absence of proper development guidelines and these developments have put invaluable cultural and natural assets at severe risk of degradation.
It also noted that some of the areas that have the potential to become tourism hubs are yet to be properly explored. “At least from this point onwards, we want to see a planned phase in tourism development activities; hence, we came into an agreement with the UDA to carry out a zoning plan as well as a development plan for tourism in these areas,” SLTDA Director General Upali Ratnayake told Mirror Business.
He noted that the zoning plans would be useful to avert certain developments that tarnish the tourism activities in these areas. The SLTDA also plans to encourage thematic developments in these zones, catering to specific tourist segments and to develop a proper monitoring mechanism to ensure sustainability.
Dr. Munasinghe noted that the UDA would commence the study with carrying capacity analysis, which would look into the potential demand for tourism in the next 10 years in these areas, based on several selected indicators.
However, Dr. Munasinghe ensured that the UDA doesn’t intend to interrupt the on-going tourism development projects in these areas.
Ratnayake noted that the UDA has agreed to gazette the zoning plan as well as the development plans under the UDA law, following the completion of the study.
He pointed out that as the UDA has more authority than the SLTDA imposing these regulations, particularly with regard to local governing bodies, it would be much more effective that these regulations are gazetted under the UDA law.