Arugambay/Ampara Cultural sites in Danger

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Cultural sites in crisis

Drastic decline in tourist arrivals: Not enough funds to even pay salaries

By Kelum Bandara

The Central Cultural Fund is in a financial crisis and is forced to seek public assistance to carry out conservation work, a top CCF official said. He attributed it to the drop in tourist arrivals in 2006.

The cultural tourism is the major source of income for the Fund to maintain its conservation sites such as Jethawanaramaya, Abhayagiriya, Sigiriya and Galle Fort which have also been declared as world heritage sites.

The official told the Daily Mirror yesterday they were able to record an annual turn over of Rs. 550 million in 2004 by selling tickets to tourists, but the income dropped drastically after the tsunami catastrophe in December of the same year.

He said they collected only Rs. 296 million in 2005, and the situation was gradually picking up towards the early part of 2006.

However, the official said, the matter took a turn for the worse after the escalation of hostilities between the security forces and the LTTE posing a major threat to the tourism industry.

A?a??A?The income declined to Rs. 18 million last month. We need at least Rs. 42 million to pay salaries of our 2500 employees attached to various sites,A?a??A? he said.

He said the travel advisories issued by some European countries affected them severely.

A?a??A?True, there is an increase in tourist arrivals from India and Pakistan. But most of them are not cultural tourists. We need more and more tourists from Europe to increase our earnings,A?a??A? he said.

In this context, the CCF requests people to volunteer to work in cultural sites such as Abhayagiriya and make cash donations to maintain the projects.

A?a??A?Even a donation of Rs. 100 is quite welcome. Those who make donations of Rs.100, 000 will receive a valuable souvenir from us,A?a??A? he said.

The Archaeological Department has suspended conservation work at some sites such as Udaganawa, Buttala and Deegawapiya in Ampara due to financial constraints.

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Personal view from Our own Correspondent:
“If this means they are selling our Nation’s most valuable assets just in order to survive:
It simply demonstrates how the entire Nation seems to feel at this difficult time.
These days everybody seems to be sacrificing something of previous high value the in our former paradise.
That could be pride, honesty, decency or just material things like selling pieces of heritage, your beach boy body or a piece of your father’s home land.”

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