Tourism is a good thing and has vast capacity to improve our economic lot. But if any potential boom is mismanaged then we might end up going from an economic lot to, well, not a lot of economy. Latest statistics released by the tourist board show that tourism has jumped up to 50% compared with the same time last year.
The increase comes as travel restrictions are removed and the war end makes Sri Lanka a safer place to visit. Roughly 63,000 people visited Sri Lanka last month, still a far cry from eventual government targets, but a massive number keeping in mind that the “season” is during the year end, when winter hits Europe.
But all this tourism is having a negative toll on the country. The government is sanctioning resorts at a rate and even domestic tourism is moving. Has anyone given a thought to how we are treating our natural heritage sites in the midst of all this?
To be fair to foreigners they are mostly knowledgeable folk and have respect for nature. It’s mostly local tourists who seem to be adopting this attitude, sanctioning dirtying your own garden. But a lot of responsibility rests with the government. The industry is just being rebuilt, and sustainable development measures must come in now rather than later.
Nilaveli beach in Trincomalee for example is polluted. Signs of carelessness are all over the place. Discarded plastic bottles, bags and wrappers, are all jousting around waiting to be picked up and recycled. Even Pigeon Island, a national park of sorts has the requisite clutter denoting disrespect towards nature, despite the many park rangers mooching about.
If traffic improves the situation will worsen. I think the train services to Trinco should improve for instance, but easier access will mean more careless tourists and even more money hungry locals. They will do their bit to make more money, but they will not secure the locality’s beauty for posterity by raping Mother Nature.
Filling knowledge gaps are probably one way of solving this. Local tourists are notorious for not giving much care to proper waste disposal. Maybe public promotion campaigns will help. Enforcement at the point of disposal is essential, but what would be desirable is a self disciplining effect where people discipline each other with angry stares or threats of disapproving opinions if acts are committed against the environment. Local stakeholders such as small scale operators in the tourism industry can be encouraged to also police conservation.
Just as importantly the necessary infrastructure must be provided and maintained. All this costs money, but if the government wants a steady and robust tourism industry well into the future, it would do well to get itself a good base for launch.
There is a serious dearth of waste disposal systems in Sri Lanka. The ones that are there suffer from very bad visibility, so even a concerned tourist looking to get rid of a chocolate wrapper will find it hard to locate an appropriate bin. Waste disposal also does not seem to be following any form of science. There are methods to follow in terms of how we separate garbage and recycle it. And special mention must also be made of medical waste; dumping it in the Beira is not a solution.This is a beautiful country; it’d be nice to leave her beautiful for our children to enjoy as well, if the radioactive nuclear waste from proposed nuclear plants, if not properly disposed of, doesn’t make us impotent in the meanwhile, that is.