Fishermen engaged in fresh water fishing in the Bolgoda Lake complained that their stake-net (Ja-kotu) fishing has been affected by the garbage thrown into the lake by moving vehicles from the Moratuwa Bridge, the chemicals released by factories and floating restaurants of the Lake.
They said fishing was their one and only livelihood and lamented that it has been affected by unscrupulous acts of various people.
Anthony Michael Fernando, a fisherman maintaining stake-nets in the Bolgoda Lake, said garbage bags were thrown from vehicles moving towards Moratuwa from Panadura to the lake.
“These garbage end up entangled in stake-nets. Not only those who were travelling in vehicles but also those settled alongside the lake release garbage to the lake. If someone cut a branch of a tree, they will also dump branches in the lake. All these garbage ended up near river banks where prawns are breeding. When garbage gets entangled in stake-nets, we cant maintain them,” he said.
He said the paint manufacturing companies abutting the lake, release old paint to the lake.
These garbage end up entangled in stake-nets. Not only those who were travelling in vehicles but also those settled alongside the lake release garbage to the lake
Anthony Michael Fernando
“At times, the colour of lake water turns red, sometimes its blue and revert back to red again. We don’t understand whom we should inform this to. If we go to the police, this will stop only for a couple of days and then the colour changes again. This has prevented breeding of fish. Bolgoda Lake is an invaluable resource to Moratuwa. No one is interested in preserving this resource. However, land filling beside river banks continues. If we cut a branch of a tree, police is keen to arrest us but no one is looking at illegal land filling. We have to engage in our employment amidst many issues and health risks,” he said.
Mr. Fernando said boats with 250 horse power engines travel with maximum speed on the lake and said many hotels and other institutions owned such boats. “When boats travel at high speed, stake-nets loosen up due to aggressive waves,” Mr. Perera said.
If any fishing net was torn, they will get entangled in our vessel causing damages to it. On the other hand, we don’t speed up our vessel because one trip on the floating restaurant has been planned for three hours
Nimalasiri Fernando, another traditional fisherman, said he usually goes to the lake in the evening to place the net but their nets are being torn by a floating restaurant which is being operated for the last three months.
“We don’t know how to engage in another occupation. Our only skill is fighting with the river and the sea to fish. We have told the floating restaurant, when it is passing us, that our nets have been placed but they take no notice of this. No action has been taken though the police and other authorities were informed. All the garbage from that vessel is being released to the lake. Due to the aggressive tides the vessel makes, our boats sometimes capsize. This is a serious issue,” he said.
We inquired from the Moratuwa Chief Public Health Inspector, A.P. Dharmasena, about people polluting the Bolgoda Lake by dumping garbage and releasing waste water.
He said they have not received any complaint about anyone releasing waste water or paint to the lake. “Until you told me just now, no one has informed me. We will definitely look into this if we were informed,” he said.
We don’t know how to engage in another occupation. Our only skill is fighting with the river and the sea to fish. We have told the floating restaurant, when it is passing us, that our nets have been placed but they take no notice of this
When asked whether a complaint was a must to look into the pollution of the river, he said, “A complaint is not necessary but its good if there is one.”
Mr. Dharmasena said they have been surveilancing for those who dump garbage from the Moratuwa Bridge and had taken legal action against some of the wrongdoers as well.
“It is the people travelling from Panadura to Moratuwa in vehicles who dump garbage from the bridge to the lake. We will pay our attention to the issue in the future as well,” he said.
When Moratuwa Divisional Secretary Himali Karunarathna was contacted over the issue, she said it was the duty of the police to prevent illegal land filling beside the river.
“We can inform those who fill the land to stop it but it should be the police which should take action. There is a separate unit at the police to deal with such issues. The matter could be referred to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA). The Land Development Corporation has also initiated a demarcation programme of the Bolgoda Lake Reserve,” she said.
Meanwhile, we contacted the Marina Bolgoda Water Sports Institute which operates a floating restaurant in the Bolgoda Lake over the allegations made by fishermen.
The Operations Manager of the Institute, Dhanushka Wickramasuriya said no harm had befallen on the fishermen’s nets by the floating restaurant.
“If any fishing net was torn, they will get entangled in our vessel causing damages to it. On the other hand, we don’t speed up our vessel because one trip on the floating restaurant has been planned for three hours. If we speed up, we have to charge more from the passengers. Therefore, I reject the allegations that boats capsize because of our vessel,” he said.
We inspected the floating restaurant and found that it has a proper waste disposal system.
We can inform those who fill the land to stop it but it should be the police which should take action. There is a separate unit at the police to deal with such issues
“We have a standard system to dispose waste water from the floating restaurant. We have informed about the restaurant to the CEA and the Wildlife Department. We don’t pollute the lake because if we did so, the lake will lose its beauty and no tourist will come. Our business depends on the sustainability of the lake. We also purchase fish from the fishermen of the area. If our business has made any negative impact on them, they should have informed us. Our vessel is being steered by retired officers of the Navy. It is not possible that fishermen’s nets get torn because of our vessel,” Mr. Wickramasuriya said.