Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara

Ambitious bid to save Lanka’s remaining ‘untouched’ reefs

Kayankerni and several other coastal zones to be declared Marine Protection Areas

“It was no different to a fish tank — clean and colourful,” is how Oceanographer Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara reflects upon the Hikkaduwa coral reef in the 70s and 80s.

“When the area started attracting tourists, residents of the area set up their own businesses from small scale hotels to glass-bottom boat rides, and by the time government realised Hikkaduwa’s potential as a tourist hot spot, the resident-centric tourism industry of the area had gone a long way to a large extent, unregulated and unplanned,” notes Dr. Kumara, the General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and Senior Lecturer at the Ruhuna University’s Department of Oceanography and Marine Geology.

The same scenario, as he says, was replicated in Unawatuna. This happened at a huge cost; both socially and environmentally, he adds. The unplanned ad hoc tourism industry which abetted environmental hazards and drug abuse was furthering its reach to the other coastal hot spots, including Mirissa, which is notable not only for unauthorised constructions on the beach but also for illegal fishing methods. “So much so, endangered species such Tomato Hind or locally called thambuwa (Cephalopholis sonnerati) and Juvenile Lobsters are sold in the open market with no heed to the laws governing protected species,” says Dr. Kumara.