Verugal, the new tourism site in the East

The thirty year old war waged by the LTTE had been a major obstacle to the development of the Eastern province. This is the reality that confronts anyone visiting the region.

Agriculture and fisheries are the two main livelihood activities of the people. However, the region is also rich in other resources as well, waiting to be made use of to launch industrialization to generate employment and alternative sources of income to the people.

Trincomalee with an area of 2727 square kilometers, has one of the best beaches in the world, extending over a distance of 80 kilometers. The natural harbour, hot water springs, Koneswarar Rock, Kodiyar Gulf, Arugam Bay which is world famous for wind surfing, Pasikuda, Nilaweli beach, the Kumana Bird Sanctuary – one could go on and on enumerating the attractions of this region. This region had been a tourism venue which suffered due to the war.

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Despite the many tourist attractions the Trincomalee region offered, it could be seen that sustained efforts under a master plan for investment had not been launched. After the East was cleared of LTTE terrorists under the governmentA?a??a??s on-going humanitarian operations to restore normal life to the people of the East, it is heartening to note that the authorities are now drawing up plans to exploit the inherent potential of the East.

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A SCOPP team which visited Trincomalee and its environs recently to assess the humanitarian needs of the people was able to find many areas that could be turned into veritable local and foreign tourist destinations.

Of particular interest is the coastal village of Verugal. Divisional Secretary Uma Maheswaran told us that around 3,000 people had been displaced by the war from Verugal. The government has now resettled most of them and the process is due to be completed by the end of this month. He said that around 1,000 houses in the village were damaged and temporary shelters have been provided to the resettled families complete with basic amenities. Buried mines are a major problem and Mr.Maheswaran said that they hoped to complete the de-mining operations by October this year.

The Verugal beach defies description due to its breathtaking beauty. It could somewhat be compared with the famous Marina Beach in Chennia, India.

The LTTE had their Voice of Tigers clandestine radio station located at Verugal straddling a Stupa. The Security Forces eliminated the Tiger presence during their humanitarian operation. However, stone inscriptions found at the temple remain intact. There are also several caves around the stupa.

It has been said that the famous Indian Emperor Raja Raja Chola was hidden in Sri Lanka until he could claim his kingdom. According to some historical sources, Buddhist monks trained him and prepared him to ascend the throne. Tamil Buddhists are said to have lived in the Eastern province in large numbers and it could be assumed that they helped in conserving the Buddhist places of worship found in this region.

Fishing is the main livelihood activity of these people and coupled with tourism, it could be transformed into a potent force with beneficial effects on the people who had suffered the ravages of war and terrorism.

Improved transport facilities would be available to the region when the government completes the Pulmodai – Verugal highway project linked to the main Trincomalee-Batticaloa highway.

The 700-million rupee China Bay – Kinniya Bridge, the Thambalgamam main road, the 50-million rupee Yan Oya – Pudawaikattu – Pulmodai highway as well as the Polonnaruwa – Trincomalee highway would underpin major tourism development initiatives in the East.

In Batticaloa, there is a boat building yard at Ondachchi within the Kaluwanchikudy Divisional Secretarial area, operated by the Sri Lanka Solidarity Organization. 90 per cent of the employees at this facility are women, including widows – all of them found living below the poverty line. A similar facility could be set up in Verugal where once the fishing industry thrived. Educated youths, both male and female, could be found in significant numbers in Verugal. The SCOPP team found about 100 widows in this village. All of them were eager to earn a living through hard work. This desire could be tapped to advantage by setting up a boat yard and also an institution to teach them deep sea fishing. Empowering women in this area would serve as a bulwark against terrorism and any future subversive activity.

A different kind of displacement had also taken place due to the war – a large number of unclaimed cattle and buffaloes have made Verugal their home. The government is currently engaged in efforts to bring these animals together and a committee has been appointed for this task. These livestock could form the nucleus of a cottage dairy industry of women, providing nutrition and also an avenue of income.

The beaches in the East are rich in mineral sands and shells. They could be used as inputs for industries producing bulbs, insulators, glass, ceramics and also cement. Regional small industries based on the resources could be set up under the Eastern Revival programme of the Government.

The Ministry of Investment Promotion has said that the sea areas in the East would be transformed into tourist zone under the accelerated 180 day plans for Eastern Revival. There are also moves to attract large scale investment, for local and foreign, to help sustain development of the East. The Director General of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka has announced new incentives and tax concessions to encourage investments in the Eastern province.

The people of the East have now been freed from the clutches of the LTTE, enabling them live their lives as they please without obeying the dictates of unscrupulous elements. Already, a transformation could be seen taking place in the East with several development projects being launched in the region. Some activity is short term with immediate benefits while others are long terms plans conceived and implemented with the future generations in mind. It is the Tamil speaking people of the East who will be the immediate beneficiaries of these activities.


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