South Asia

Published: Friday 15 July 2005

Blunder tourism: Six months after the tsunami disaster, the inhabitants of Arugam Bay on Sri Lanka's east coast are protesting a government move ostensibly aimed at creating a safety buffer zone against any future disaster of the kind. The government is reclaiming their land on the ground that any construction within 200 metres of the coast is banned. But the catch is that the land is being taken over by the tourist board for being converted into a tourist zone. This was confirmed by tourist board chairperson Udaya Nanayakkara. This may actually increase the area's vulnearbility.

Residents of the area recently held a massive protest demonstration against the move. "People not profit", cried their banners. A local wondered, "When and how will the aid be spent?" Research undertaken after the tsunami has suggested that if humans had not interfered with the coasts and their environment, the impact of the disaster would have been less. But it seems that Sri Lankan authorities have refused to learn from the mistakes.

Fishing trouble: The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) recently announced the schedule of a three-month protest against the Sindh government's proposed contract system for fishing and its excesses against fisherfolk. Pointing out that the Sindh assembly had abolished the contract system and restored the license system way back in 1977, PFF said the former system will deprive poor fisherfolk of their only source of livelihood. The Fisheries Ordinance, promulgated in 1980, also supports the license system, it added. Its protest schedule includes various seminars, demonstrations and hunger strikes to be organised in Hyderabad, Lahore and Islamabad.

A major grievance of the forum is the ill-treatment of fisherfolk and their leaders, who are allegedly being arrested and tortured. PFF also sought to highlight the fishing community's poor living conditions and the fact that the government wasn't doing much to improve it. The fisherfolk had a special complaint against Sindh chief minister's advisor on fisheries, who had allegedly victimised and threatened them.

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