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Land acquisition in the name of tourism and dubious public purpose.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 01:00 Nushka Nafeel

“Political power is exerted in favour of powerful and rich individuals or companies eager to exploit the land. Common people who are victims of tourism development are neglected when it comes to decisions pertaining to the economic policies based on community tourism,” [Sandun Thudugala] added.

Tourism has often been promoted as the solution towards developing regional economies and for many years, many only paid attention to the influx of tourists, dollars and resorts. But as tourism seeks to monopolise several of our natural resources, its stampede has been stopped by people in these regions who claim that their home cannot be the next tourist destination. Activists, affected people and government officials met last week at a ‘Policy forum on Inclusive Development and right to Land’ organised by Oxfam to discuss several issues ranging from land rights, regional development to tourism promotion.

Director Planning and Development, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority P.U Ratnayake speaking on Tourism Promotion Plans in Post Conflict areas said, tourism should not be looked at as an industry that displaces local communities. “The development process should go hand in hand with the people. The government has integrated tourism development plans,” he said.

Ratnayake also highlighted that the country’s export income was approximately Rs. 900 million while the import expenditure was over Rs 3,500 million. “There is no trade balance between exports and imports, we have a huge gap,” he said.
“It has been the same for the past 10 to 20 years and the gap keeps widening. We need to have foreign exchange earning industries in the country. Many of our own people are working overseas and over 70 percent are working in the Middle East as house maids. We need to focus on skilled laborers and reduce the amount of women going abroad as house maids,” he added.