V. Kirishna, courtesy of the Nation, 24 June 2012
Three years after a hostile environment, Batticaloa has now become a hive of development activities. The coastal town that was devastated due to the war that raged for over 30 years is slowly staggering back on its feet with the help of local and foreign assistance.
While priority has been given for the welfare of the people, the overall development of the region has been given importance as well. Construction activities, educational exhibitions, tourism promotions and loads of activities are on full swing thanks to the peaceful environment that prevails in the area.
Local and foreign investors have cashed to develop the region into a commercial spot. The beaches, lagoons, islands and several other factors have been identified as potentials that could bring in more foreign revenue to the country.
Tourism is one of the main aspects looked at by the government and the relevant investors. Tourism was one of the sectors that was severely affected during the war. The volatile situation in the North and East prevented tourists to travel to those areas that were plagued with violence. Several countries listed Sri Lanka as one of the dangerous countries for tourists and advised them to refrain from traveling to Sri Lanka or certain parts of the country.
These restrictions and embargoes were lifted a few weeks after war came to an end in May 2009. The East tasted liberation a few months before the North. However, a lot was needed to be done in terms of infrastructure, livelihood and providing basic facilities.
In addition, Batticaloa and the rest of the East needed special attention in terms of reconciliation among all three communities that lived in the area. Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims have been living together in the coastal town for years. However, the ethnic conflict did created a dent in their relationship with one another, resulting in a very sensitive and volatile environment. But, the situation has changed and a greater understanding has been developed between the communities.
In addition to the war, Batticaloa has been affected by several natural disasters. It was one of the towns that received the brunt of the 2004 tsunami which left thousands killed, many injured and many more missing.
Cyclones, flash floods and heavy rains have also affected the livelihood of the people on a frequent basis, temporarily halting their progress and pulling them a few steps down.
Agriculture and fishing have been the main source of income for the majority of the residents. The end of the war brought with it a new lease of life for those involved in both sectors.The focus has not only been to improve their livelihood, but also to bring in the East to play a major role in the economy as a whole.
Today, the East does play a major role in the economy thanks to the peaceful environment and the ability to use the available potential and resources to the maximum.
Batticaloa, popularly known as ‘Land of Singing Fish’ (Meen paadum thaen naadu) is known for agriculture and fishing industries in the country. Over time, it has developed to become one of the major districts in the country and is well connected with other districts like Ampara, Badulla, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Monaragala.
Batticaloa is in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka on a flat coastal plain borded by the Indian Ocean in the east occupies the central part of the Eastern Sri Lanka. Its average elevation is around five meters. Scenic beauty of the Batticaloa is the Lagoons. Batticaloa District has three lagoons such as Batticaloa Lagoon, Valaichchenai Lagoon, and Vakari (Panichchankerni) Lagoon. Among these lagoons, Batticaloa Lagoon is the largest lagoon and has 56 km long and 162 square km area, extending from Pankudaweli in North and Kalmunai in South.
There are several islands within the Batticaloa Lagoon such as Puliayantheevu, Buffaloa Island, Bone Island. Many bridges are built across the lagoon connecting the landmasses and the islands. The Puliayantheevu is the metropolitan place of the city. The biggest bridge of all is Lady Manning bridge located at Kallady, which is the main access path to the city from the southern places of the district. This bridge is also famous for singing fishes, which was considered musical sounds heard in the Kallady lagoon in the full moon day. A priest named Father Lang recorded this musical charm and broadcast it in the 1960s over the (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation).
Batticaloa beaches are sandy and located along 4 km shoreline in the city and further extend through the neighboring places. Kallady beach, the popular serene beachfront where large numbers of people gather in the city. Also Batticaloa such as the heavenly beaches of Pasikudah and Kalkudah have rarely been molested. Pasikudah is a bay protected from the ocean. The significance of Pasikudah is that its bed is flat and sandy and has a pleasant effect on the feet. This can be experienced up to nearly 150 to 200 meters from the shore. Pasikudah is an ideal location for those who wish to learn swimming. Pasikudah is in perfect harmony with its stunning natural setting on the island’s eastern tip. With its atmosphere of rarefied tranquility, it is a place for relaxation and renewal.