The coastal stretch from Pottuvil to Panama on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka is blessed with a wide array of tourist attractions.
These include bays famous for surfing and bathing, coastal waters rich with fish resources, lagoons providing ideal niches for prawns, crabs and lobsters, rich mangrove stands – a heaven for aquatic fauna and birds, wide sandy beaches for beach lovers and tall sand dunes for those who seek adventures. ArugamBay is one of the best surfing areas in Asia. A famous WildlifeNational Park and several archaeological and cultural sites are also located close to the coastal area.
These attractions draw a large number of local and international tourists to the area making it a tourism “hot spot”.
At a seminar on Tourism and Coastal Zone Management in Sri Lanka held in November, 2010 during the Mangroves for the Future - Regional Steering Committee meeting # 7, the need to examine the tourism development plans for the coastal stretch from Pottuvil to Panama in the light of the current interest in tourism expansion vis‐à‐vis coastal zone management was expressed. In order to fulfill this commitment, IUCN in partnership with the National Academy of Science, Sri Lanka organized a workshop on Tourism Development and Coastal Management on the Southeast Coast on 23 December, 2010 in Pottuvil.
A total of 38 participants representing the government agencies, an NGO and local tourism sector attended this workshop. The government agency representations were from the Coast Conservation Department (CCD), Ministry of Environment, Department of Fisheries, Sri Lanka Tourism, Forest Department, Central Environmental Authority, Divisional Secretaries of Pottuvil and Lahugala, and the Pottuvil Pradeshiya Sabhal.
The plenary session had presentations from CCD, Sri Lanka Tourism, the National Academy of Science Sri Lanka, Hoteliers’ Association of Sri Lanka and Arugam Bay Tourism Association. These provided a wealth of information to the participants. The panel discussion which followed the plenary session, brought out a number of issues such as difficulties faced by the tourists (inadequate local transportation, harassment, lack of basic facilities), hotels operating without a license from Sri Lanka Tourism, need for a tourism Master Plan for the area, inadequate support from some key state agencies, unauthorized constructions and non-adherence to the coastal setbacks, land ownership, blocking of lagoons and estuaries and consequent ecosystem damages and conflicts with fishermen who have been traditionally using the beaches.
It was agreed that these issues should be brought to the attention of the relevant government agencies with a view to resolving the key outstanding matters to have a more sustainable tourism strategy in the area.