Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sustainable development is "only possible" with people’s participation

Sri Lanka is under post war recovery. Many development projects are underway in the country, including the war torn North and East of Sri Lanka. Roads are being renovated and highways are being expanded.

The government plans to promote tourism, and expects two and a half million tourists yearly by 2016, and double the hotel rooms to meet the demand. Tourism industry drew U$ 1.6 billion for investment during the first half of 2011. 750,000th tourist in year 2011 was welcomed on 24th November 2011.

"STOP Land Grabbing in the name of Development; Ensure Life and Livelihoods!" reads the banner

Joseph Francis Croos from Mullikulam in Mannar district in North West of Sri Lanka got displaced multiple times. He is unhappy and requests humbly to be resettled in his own village.

My village Mullikkulam is a fertile land, where we do farming and fishing. It has six rivers. My village is a prosper one. We were told by the authorities; we can go to the Church and do farming, but cannot be resettled. We had our church feast in August 2011. But we have not got the permission to go, light candles, fulfill our vows, garland our Mother Mary and celebrate the feast.

Recently, we were told that we will be resettled in some other place. How can we live in some other place? We have our own lands and farming fields. We cannot abandon our lands and go and live somewhere else. We are not ready to lose our lands
” Joseph Francis Croos.

Reverend Sister Marelene Perera is a Catholic Nun who is involved in the mission of building humane communities in Sri Lanka. She helps the victims of current development in Polonnaruwa, North Central Province. She says development should allow the people to participate.

For me, development is to enable all peoples in the country, all different groups of people to live with dignity and meaning. And, for our country I would say, we must add another one. Because we have a lot of people in this small country, different religions, different ethnicities, rich and poor. We must create the space and also an environment whereby all these people could interact with trust and confidence. Be involved and participating with a great sense of belonging. That’s what I mean by development. Development should be integral, means spiritual, social, economic, personal and also political.

But, what I see is on trust economic. And this economic trust going towards tourism is making us more and more dependent on others. When we are dependent on others, can we live with dignity? Can we live meaning specially in the 21st century?. And also this kind of tourism promotion destroys our land, our traditional culture, employment of the ordinary people. And we do not have food sovereignty whereby we produce our own food. So we are dependent. For me it is not development. So, I think we have to tell the government this is how we understand development. We don’t mind tourists coming here. But, let it be at a certain level. Develop other avenues of industry, culture, agriculture. Help the people to develop culturally, because this is a knowledge era. We are against it because it destroys our environment. We have such a beautiful country with lot of variety of fauna and flora and that is being destroyed. Where do we end?
” Reverend Sister Marlene Perera.

Herman Kumara is the National Convener of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement

The post war development process created a lot of problems on fisher people, agriculture workers and all the people living along the coast, and also inside the country. Because, the government’s development programme is to develop tourism, as one of the main thing. Without caring any destruction on the lives and livelihoods of the people who are living on those lands. Government tries to grab that land and go in accelerated way on tourism development. So that, we thought that we need to bring all the affected communities on tourism, on development activities, infrastructure development and so many other types of displacements including war displaced people. So, today we have got here people from various parts of the country, not only from North and East, also from mid country, West coast also from down South and from East coast” Herman Kumara.

Indrani Fernando from Negombo hails from a fishing family. She calls to unite to stop the proposed plans to promote tourism.

Development; Development; What is this development? Development is essential, but it should not affect the poor people like us. We do not want development which destroys our livelihoods. In the name of development they brought some tragedy to Negombo as far as I see. Sea Planes were brought to Negombo in the name of development. But we did not keep quiet. We fisher folks got together and created awareness among the people, and told the authorities that “we will not allow the sea planes to land in our poor people’s areas”. We joined hands with women’s organisations along with fishermen’s organisations and shown our solidarity. All were united like a family” Indrani Fernando.

People need to be part of the ongoing development process.


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