Kalpitiya Tourism Project

By Centre for Environmental Justice
Environment Conservation Trust


This large-scale tourism project is being implemented in an area of 1,100 hectares of 14 islands in Puttlam Lagoon by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). It affects the livelihood of the 2640 fishing families in the above mentioned Grama Niladhari Divisions.

The ancestral lands of the native fishing community have been acquired by the SLTDA through provisions of Gazette Notifications bearing No. 1506/18 of August 01, 2007 and No. 1549/7 of May 13, 2008 published under the provisions of Tourism Act No. 38 of 2005.
Islets Acquired for the Project
  • Welle 1: 1.55 ha
  • Welle 2: 10.80 ha
  • Welle 3: 13.70 ha
  • Ippanthivu: 54.95 ha
  • Periya Arichchalei: 45.60 ha
  • Sinna Arichchalei: 16.82 ha
  • Iramativu: 91 ha
  • Sinna Iramativu: 2.22 ha
  • Iramativu West: 4.53 ha
  • Kakativu: 28.19 ha
  • Battalangunduwa: 125 ha
  • Palliyawatte: 59 ha
  • Uchchamune: 444 ha
  • Mutuwal (Dutch Bay): 201 ha

Many fishing harbors have been established in these islands. Four fishing harbors are located in Palliyawatte Grama Niladari division; are Karativu, Battalangunduwa, Punchigunduwa, and Palliyawatte. In Oolanda Ela Grama Niladari Division there are 2 fishing harbours; Uchchamune and Rodapaduwa. Ten fishing harbours located in Aanawasala, Sinnakudirippu, Wannimundalama, Periyakudirippu and Mandalakudawa Grama Niladari Divisions including Mohottuarama, Nilladiya, Thureiadiya, Janasavipura, Aanawasala, Sinnakudirippu and Wannimundalama are affected by the project.

Fishing activities are carried out widely and successfully using small scale fishing gear in the areas of Battalangunduwa, Palliyawatte, Uchchamune, Oolanda Ela and Aanawasala harbours where fish and shrimp are abundant.  

Mangroves are widely distributed in Oolanda Ela Grama Niladhari Division and Uchchamune while sand dunes ecosystems and Coastal Vegetation are widely distributed in other areas.

Objective of this project is to transfer blocks of land from the acquired area to companies and investors for building tourist hotels. Hence, tourist hotels as well as access roads have been built in the area. Clearance and filling of mangrove forests, changing of course of the canals and runoff patterns have been changed .

A bridge and a road have been built across the lagoon from Thora Ediya of Kalpitiya to Mohoththuarama. This area is around 800 meters long. A 60 meter long bridge has been erected in the deepest central area. An access road has been built covering the rest of the length which has been filled to a width of around 10 meters. This road runs around 740 meters.

A Tourism Zone has been established in the area acquired by the SLTDA. In addition to mangrove forests, sand dune eco systems and coastal plant communities as well as scrub forests of the area have been cleared for the project.

The main tourist attractions aimed by the project are observation of fish and coral reefs of the Bar Reef Sanctuary  and observation of Marine Mammals in the area. Additionally, the mangrove forests and associated biodiversity have been aimed to attract tourists.

Among the facilities expected to  make available for the tourists are, a Domestic Airport, a Golf Course, Underwater Hotels, Speedboat Rides and a  Race Course.

About 38 hotels are planned to be built in Battalangunduwa, Palliyawatte, Ilippaththuwa, Periya Arichchalei, Iramativu and Mutuwal islets which will have a total of around 5000 rooms. Construction of some of these hotels has already commenced.
Harmful Effects of the Project
  • Kalpitiya Lagoon supports fishermen engaged in seasonal fishery activities using conventional fishing gear as well as fishermen living in the island in permanent settlements. They have been directly and indirectly displaced due to this project. Further, it has caused loss of livelihood of these fishermen. 
  • Mangroves serve as breeding grounds for many aquatic life forms such as shrimp and crab. These habitats have been destroyed by clearance, filling and changing the runoff pattern. Consequently, populations of aquatic species will decline affecting the fishing activities of the local community generating socioeconomic problems.
  • Large-scale removal of mangrove forests, coastal sand dune forests and scrub jungles results in local weather and climate changes in the area which is semi arid. This affects the lives of the local community.
  • Although the biodiversity of the area has been identified as one of the tourist attractions in the area, it has been destroyed for development of the project. Therefore, drawing tourist attraction and reaching expected goals is unlikely. 
  • Coral watching in the Bar Reef Sanctuary and Marine Mammal Watching in the sea off Kalpitiya are targeted to be the main attractions for the tourists. Construction of large scale tourist hotels and if the project succeeds, excessive attraction of tourists exerts unwanted pressure on these resources will affect persistence of these. Ultimately, it will lead to collapse of the tourism industry in the area. Under such circumstances, only outcome of the project will be loss of natural landscape, biodiversity, destruction of ecosystems and displacement of the native local community.
  • Operation of high-speed motor boats and levels of unsustainable tourist activities like water sports will have harmful impacts on traditional fishing activities and the vulnerable ecosystems.
  • The restrictions imposed on the fishermen with commencement of the tourism activities and decline of the yield of fisheries will force the fishermen to abandon their traditional livelihood. This will not only lead to social issues but also will have an adverse effect on the nutritional needs of the people, since fish is one of the main sources of protein that is cheap and readily available for the people.
  • The waste discharges of the hotels and other establishments results in contamination of the sea and the lagoon with chemicals and organic matter leading to extinction of species in these ecosystems. This also affects the fisheries in the area.
  • Areas of Thilladiya, Sethawadiya, Mosalwatta and Thoreadiya are prone to flooding due to construction of the road linking Thoraediya and Mohoththuarama since it has been built on a dam like structure across the lagoon. Further, for 380 families from Kudawa, Sethawadiya, Thilladiya and Nawaladdiya subsisting on fishing activities, travelling across the lagoon has been blocked. The shallow areas have been filled for the road leaving the deeper area for the bridge. But, only motor boats are capable of moving across this deep area. This is a direct and harmful impact on the fishermen living outside the Tourism Zone.  
  • With the commencement of the Norochcholei Coal Power Plant, its exhaust fumes will be directed towards this area causing air pollution and decline of tourist attraction. Such a situation will only result in waste of the immense investments and destruction of natural resources.
  • Kalpitiya area and the islets around Kalpitiya have been identified as areas that will be affected by the rising sea levels due to global warming. Therefore, large-scale investment on developing such an area cannot be expected to be profitable.
  • The only available source of fresh water to provide for the heavy water requirement of the hotels, golf courses, race courses and cricket stadium is Kala Oya. Extraction of water from Kala Oya is extremely costly and affects the ecosystems dependent on the river adversely.
  • Mangrove forests in the custody of the Department of Forest Conservation have been acquired, cleared, filled and used for various construction activities. The efforts taken by the Department of Forest Conservation and the native community to protect the natural resources of the area have been made futile. This not only sets a bad example, but also breaks up the trust and urge in fishermen on the security of the resources. Hence, their involvement in protecting the environment will be diminished by the operation of this project.
With implementation of the project, construction of many hotels has been already commenced around the area filling the mangroves and salt marshes. In consequence, harmful effects of development will expand throughout the lagoon displacing many more native fishermen.
Laws Violated
  • According to the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resources Management Act of No. 57 of 1981 as amended by Amendment Act No. 49 of 2011, prior written approval of the Coast Conservation Department should be obtained subject to an EIA before carrying out any development activity in the Coastal Zone. This regulation has been violated in order to build the hotels of the project. But, removal of sand dunes, coastal plant communities and construction of permanent structures has been carried out violating this regulation.
  • According to the Gazette Notification bearing No. 1020/21 dated 27th March 1998 published under the provisions of the Northwestern Province Environmental Statute No. 12 of 1990, it is compulsory to obtain prior written approval for any developmental activity carried out in a forest land exceeding one hectare subject to the Environmental Impact Assessment Process. But, clearance of mangrove forests, coastal ecosystems and scrub jungle is being carried out in this area without such approval. 
  • Access roads and permanent structures are being constructed in after clearing and filling mangrove forests violating article 20 of amended Forest Conservation Ordinance No. 65 of 2009.
  • A resettlement operation should be carried out as per the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy (NIRP). In the process, minimizing socioeconomic effects should be prioritized. Furthermore, compensations should be awarded to the people according to the present property value as stipulated in the Land Acquisition Act No. 09 of 1950 and its amendments, and also, until the life style of the displaced people is restored, they should be provided with means of livelihood. Although many fishermen have been displaced directly and indirectly due to this project, the above policy has not been adopted.
Fundamental Rights of the fishermen have also been violated due to the project by obstructing their customary lifestyle and freedom of engaging in their customary livelihood activities.
  • District: Puttalam
  • DS Division: Kalpitiya
  • Grama Niladhari Divisions: Palliya Watta, Oolanda Ela, Aanawasala, Sinnakudirippu, Wannimundal, Periyakudiruppu, Mandalakudawa


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