MTBOA requests public to aid affected persons | Daily News


Removal of unauthorised constructions at Mirissa :

MTBOA requests public to aid affected persons

An unauthorised construction that had been recently demolished. Picture by Priyan de Silva.
An unauthorised construction that had been recently demolished. Picture by Priyan de Silva.

Mirissa Tourist Business Operators’ Association (MTBOA) Patron Edwin Silva requested the public to help those who had lost their livelihoods following the measures taken by the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department to demolish unauthorised constructions on the Mirissa beach.

He was addressing a press conference held at the Sunset Beach Hotel in Mirissa, last Thursday (17).

“The beachfronts of certain hotels on the Mirissa coastal belt resembled a battlefield a week after officials from of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department, together with the police, demolished all unauthorised structures on May 11,” Silva said, adding that the owners and staff of 23 such hotels and restaurants, had illegally expanded their establishments without.

Through the said measure, the Mirissa beach would be more attractive once the rubble is cleared, he said.

Under the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resources Management Act No. 57 of 1981, which was amended by Act No. 64 of 1988 and Act No. 49 of 2011, the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department has the power to remove all unauthorised temporary or permanent structures within the coastal zones of Sri Lanka. It is imperative that a permit is obtained from the department prior to the commencement of any development activity, be it for tourism, housing or business purposes within the coastal zone.

The coastal zone is defined as ‘300 metres inward from the mean high waterline, 2 km seaward of the mean low waterline, 2 km measured on a perpendicular straight baseline towards the land from the entrance points of any water body thus connected to the sea, and 100 metres inland from the periphery of that water body.’

“Although the department had made an announcement regarding the demolition of unauthorised structures on the Mirissa beach on several occasions, the MTBOA appealed to the relevant ministers, to intervene and postpone the programme in hopes that authorities would further review the situation,” Silva said.

“A few days prior to the demolition programme’s initiation, we held discussions regarding the matter with the President’s Secretary, who then consulted the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department Director General,” the MTBOA Patron said, “We requested that the department highlight which structures were required to be removed and provide the owners with a notice of eviction. Later, we scheduled an appointment with the department’s director general. However, the director general later cancelled the meeting,” Silva added.

Mirissa Tourist Business Operators’ Association President Donald Weerasekera said Provincial Councils, Local Government and Sports Minister Faiszer Musthapha said agreed that if the said unauthorised constructions were demolished, many people would lose their livelihoods.

Sunset Hotel Owner Damith Sisira said the department had given him notice in 2012, to remove unauthorised structures on his premises.

“They had not specified what buildings were considered unauthorised and we were under the impression that they were constructions that were within 5 metres inward from the high water line,” he said.

On May 11, authorities had demolished the seaward wall of the hotel’s swimming pool and kitchen.

“They did not provide me with the opportunity to remove my belongings; they demolished the kitchen with equipment worth over Rs. 4 million,” he said, “However, the seaside wall of the swimming pool was on the boundary of the 5 meter line. Hence, they had the authority to demolish it.”

Helma Gunasiri, wife of Nissan Hotel Owner P. H. Gunasiri; one of the hotels which were demolished during the programme; said, “The hotel was our sole livelihood and we invested all we had in it; my husband invested most of what he saved by working as a welder in Japan to commence the hotel in 2001. It was a three-room hotel situated on a 12-perch beachfront land.”

The Nissan Hotel had survived the 2004 tsunami and was also the establishment at which the Mirissa Beach Party was held every Thursday, during tourist season.

“We employed a staff of 35 persons and the hotel was my only source of income. It is with this money that I provided for my wife, two children, and my 80-year-old mother,” Gunasiri said.

“If President Maithripala Sirisena considers our appeal for aid, Nissan Hotel would be on the top of the list,” MTBOA President Weerasekera said.

It was the opinion of those present at the press conference, that the losses would have been minimal if authorities had demolished unauthorised constructions as soon as they were erected.


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