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Viduthalaitivu - A Jewel in the Crown!

21 August 2020 12:02 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A video going viral disseminated by a group of passionate environmentalists to save a pristine Marine Nature Reserve in imminent danger, was picked up by a set of eagle eyed nature loving activists of Ladies’ College Class of ‘72. Mothers first and professionals second, these nature loving women consider motherhood as the pre-eminent force for change, as William Ross Wallace aptly describes in his poem ‘the hand that rocks the cradle will rule the world’. Indeed women do carry the ‘weight’ to impact societies critically. But to this end, not only mothers but numerous others would be aghast and horrified by the contents of this video which laid bare what would be catastrophic not only to Sri Lanka’s fragile ecosystem but its ripple effects would spread all over the world.  


The alarm bells have been ringing for some time now. A government sponsored proposal backed by the Ministry of Environment & Wildlife Resources and the National Aquaculture Development authority (NAQDA)  has sought to de-gazette this area as a Nature Reserve to make way for an aquaculture park to farm shrimps and mud crabs in man-made ponds for a ‘dream’ export venture with callous disregard for the colossal damage it would cause our ecosystem.  
This virgin territory, Sri Lanka’ third largest Marine sanctuary is none other than Viduthalaitivu, a Jewel in the Crown! Located in the North Western coast in close proximity to Mannar, it is bestowed with immense natural beauty with rich, vibrant and unique ecosystems, a requisite indispensable for the biodiversity of Sri Lanka and the world. This area is officially protected due to its national importance and is renowned to be the island’s only mangrove habitat that reaches out to the sea. These mangroves, we are told are fundamental as it acts as a nursery for fish, shrimp and crabs and home to flocks of migratory birds whilst it plays a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Furthermore, the vast meadows on the coast of the Nature Reserve are known to be one of last remaining sanctuaries for our nearly extinct Dugong, sometimes referred to as Sea Cow. Gentle and enormous, these vegetarian marine mammals love to chomp on sea grass growing in abundance in this Nature Reserve. Equally, the multi-hued coral or ‘rainforests of the sea’ that gently sway in the ocean is food for millions of beautiful sea creatures that live within, whilst protecting the coastline from erosion.  

"Located in the North Western coast in close proximity to Mannar, it is bestowed with immense natural beauty with rich, vibrant and unique ecosystems, a requisite indispensable for the biodiversity of Sri Lanka and the world"

Throughout the years, these diverse and vibrant ecosystems have contributed to the livelihood of the villagers of Viduthalaitivu who have lived in harmony with nature with simple lifestyles without the ‘overkill’. However, the plans afoot by NAQDA to convert this pristine Nature Reserve into an aquaculture farm could be devastating to both life and livelihood.  
It is a known fact that significant swathes of healthy mangrove habitats in Puttalam, Mundel and Chilaw have been lost to similar failed aquaculture projects due to its unsuitability for Sri Lanka and some, an eyesore, stripped of its natural beauty or biodiversity and ending up as wasteland! Pond based aquaculture, often susceptible to disease outbreaks, has had devastating effects on local marine population undermining the long term sustainability of local shellfish and shrimp in the wild. It then begs the question of how suitable are these aquaculture shellfish, ridden with disease and/or chemicals for human consumption?  


It is feared that Viduthalaitivu will suffer the same fate as the mangrove habitats located along the North Western coast of the island. If not for a brave young officer, Ms Devani Jayatillake, from the District Forest Office from Gampaha who became an overnight sensation, a hero for standing up to the forces that may be, we would have lost the mangroves from being ploughed in at Queen’s island in Negombo for a mere Volleyball pitch! At a tense public meeting with a then State Minister, she thundered “This cannot be provided, this is an ecosystem!” Hearing the news, we were rapturous as she stood her ground! Devani further added “There is a target set for Sri Lanka to become the Champion in Asia when it comes to mangroves. We are short of 10,000 hectares”, she lamented. What better time to re-educate and raise purpose driven generations to take pride in our assets and be the guardians of our natural heritage for health and wealth of our nation?  

"It is a known fact that significant swathes of healthy mangrove habitats in Puttalam, Mundel and Chilaw have been lost to similar failed aquaculture projects due to its unsuitability for Sri Lanka and some, an eyesore, stripped of its natural beauty or biodiversity and ending up as wasteland!"

Viduthalaitivu’s unique ecosystem is of global importance as outlined by the proponents of the “Protect Viduthalaitivu Nature Reserve” video doing its rounds! And environmentalists collectively and independently are coming forward to lobby vociferously to save this precious Nature Reserve for the planet, for our future generations.  
Mother Nature will not hesitate to slam its brakes at the plunder and pollution of the delicate balance of its ecosystems and biodiversity effecting climate change and accelerate natural disasters including the unprecedented pandemic we are now ensnared in!  
Mr. President, Sir! We are assured that you will take necessary steps to review and rescind these destructive proposals for the good of your people and our country.  

Savitri de Alwis  


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  Comments - 2

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  • Helen W Friday, 21 August 2020 10:38 AM

    Great article! We need to take action now! For the future generations and for Mother Nature.

    Connie Friday, 21 August 2020 04:12 PM

    What does the Minister for Buddha Sasana have to say about destroying life - in all its forms?


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