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 Post subject: Bay of Hambantota
 Post Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:33 am 
Bay of Hambantota

By Srimal Fernando
@DM / 22Feb2006

The Bay of Hambantota is located 240km South East of Colombo. Richly endowed with a beautiful stretch of ocean and vast expanses of deserted beach, the Bay retains its natural beauty, charm, simplicity and tranquil atmosphere which makes it a perfect paradise location. The Hambantota Bay is one of the most biologically productive and ecologically important bays in Sri Lanka.

The land fringing the East shores of the Bay is covered with dense mangrove vegetation. The mangroves and the Bay’s shallow waters (average depth of 35 meters) serve as valuable spawning and nursery grounds for Bay marine life. About eight fishing villages lie scattered around the Bay coastline. A typical Bay village consists of 220 fisherfolk households whose main source of income is from fishing or fishing related occupations. On average young people comprise about 2/3 of the population.

Away from the sea and sands, the Hambantota Bay has a wealth of magnificent inland landscape for the nature lover, a sleepy lagoon which comes alive with an abundance of indigenous and migratory birds. The surrounding Bay area is dotted with ancient temples and monasteries dating back to the second century. The Eastern edge of the Bay is on the boundary of the Yala National Park, a conserved wild life reserve.

There are two prominent land marks dating from British times looming over the Bay. One is a circular fortification called the Martellor Tower, which has been converted into a National Fisheries Museum and the other is a towering lighthouse.

In recent years, the water and natural resources of the Bay have been degraded by uncontrolled fishing and pollution. Until recently, encroachment from off shore fishing vessels was rampant, giving rise to conflicts between traditional small scale fishermen and large scale commercial operators such as trawlers and pure seiners, and also between small scale fishermen themselves especially because some of them used motorized push nets.

The recent Indian Ocean tsunami caused unprecedented loss off life and property to the community who live around the Bay. The fishing industry in the Hambantota Bay is recovering, but still faces significant challenges. Most of the boats and fishing gear for the small boat fisheries industry have been replaced. Some of the facilities like ice plants and cold storage are now in operation. The wholesale distribution network has been slow to recover.

The Bay fisherfolk of Hambantota have come a long way. The Ministry of Fisheries, The Hambantota Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (HICZMP) and the Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce (HDCC) initiated various projects to alleviate the problems and improve standards of living of the fisher folk community living around the Bay.

Accommodation around the Bay is as modest, with basic facilities such as several small hotels or guest houses which continue to provide homely accommodation to suit different lifestyles. One feels welcomed by the hospitality of the smiling people. The Bay of Hambantota is still one of the most beautiful locations in Sri Lanka to be visited.

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