South Korean aid to develop fish industry
By Skandha Gunasekara
A USD 2.5 million from the Korean Government will enable further expediting the development of the island's Fisheries Sector, said the State Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Dilip Wedaarachchi, speaking to Ceylon Today. He also stated that the former regime's carelessness in carrying out development projects, especially the maritime and fisheries projects had resulted in a waste of resources and opportunities.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
?: Finances have been allocated in the previous Budget to develop various fishery Harbours, such as the one at Dondra Head in the South of the island. What is the delay in commencing these renovations?
A: The coming few years will see the fisheries and aquaculture sector being developed exponentially. Following my tour of South Korea, the Korean Government indicated to me that they were willing to provide a soft loan to develop four multipurpose fishing harbours. We plan to locate these harbours in Maadagal, Chalai, Udappuwa and the island of Delft. We proposed multipurpose harbours so that we could target other sectors such as the tourism sector alongside the fisheries industry. Accordingly, these harbours would not function as fisheries ports but would facilitate various tourist attractions such as jet skiing, wind surfing and so on. Commercial sites such as shopping malls will also be set up within and around these multipurpose fishing harbours.
The island of Delft, in particular, we are hoping to develop into, its own tourism hub; it's an ideal location for such a project. The soft loan to be provided by the Korean Government would be for a 20-year period and have 0.55 per cent interest rate. Cabinet approval has already been given for these projects. Apart from the loan, the Korean Government has been generous enough to provide us with the funding to establish two technical training colleges, to teach the professional skills required for those expecting to work in the fisheries and aquaculture industry. One would be in the North while the other would be situated in the South of the island. Also, a fishing village consisting of 100 houses will be built with a grant provided by the Korean Government.
This village, to be called "Diyawara Sevana" will be in the Bata-aththa area in Ambalantota and the first 25 houses have almost been completed. The Korean Government is giving USD 2.5 million as a grant to establish the fishing village and the two technical colleges.
Apart from South Korea, Vietnam too has expressed an interest in expanding ties with Sri Lanka and was impressed by our 'Blue economy' policy. This policy is basically where we use the oceans and water for sustainable development and commercial trade.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian Government proposed to provide us with the technical knowledge and skills for the development of more sustainable energy projects.
?: We have regained the GSP+ for our products being exported to the EU. Why hasn't Sri Lanka begun the manufacturing and export of fish-produce such as fish-oil or fish spreads, similar to that of the Maldives?
A: Well, before we can begin manufacturing fish-produce for export we need to increase our fish production and depending on natural fish sources alone to do so is not sufficient any longer. In light of this, farming of aquaculture has already begun across the island, especially through the private sector. However, the Government has commenced a large scale crab farming project, solely for the purpose of exports. 500 acres will be utilized for this project, from the Hambantota District and already 50 acres have been given to 16 fishermen who have begun setting up these crab farms. It will be a sort of crab 'city'.
?: Last year, the Ministry of Fisheries organized an ornamental fish exhibition called "Min Visithuru" with the participation of President Maithripala Sirisena to promote the industry. Can we expect something similar this year?
A: Actually, this exhibition has been gazetted under my portfolio now and we have decided that instead of doing a half-hearted job this year, we will have an impressive exhibition in 2018 on an international scale. The ornamental fish industry is growing in the international market and Sri Lanka is a prime candidate to supply to this market. We expect to invite representatives from all the countries around the world for next year's "Min Visithuru" exhibition. Our hope is to increase our exports of ornamental fish to the international market to increase to 20 per cent by 2020, from its current market share of only 6 per cent.
?: The number of reports of harm to marine life has been increasing rapidly, especially with the influx of tourists into the country.Just a week ago 12 dolphins were caught and killed by fishermen off the coast of Trincomalee. How does the government expect to curb such incidents?
A: The relevant officials, whether it is the Coast Guard, Navy and even the Customs Department, have all been notified to be vigilant of those intending to exploit nature and cause harm. Strict penalties will be imposed on those who violate our environmental laws. In addition, to curtail instances of mammals such as Dolphins and Whales getting caught in nets or falling victim to fishermen and their equipment, I have proposed that a device be attached to buoys or even boats to ward off such animals. This technology is already being used on multi-day fishing vessels to ensure Wales and Dolphins don't entangle or knock on these crafts. These same devices can be fixed onto buoys or large fishing nets out at sea so that it keeps mammals away from our fishermen. These devices are not too expensive and can be used to cover a large area of water.
?: Last week you said that development projects undertaken by the former regime, specifically maritime projects were a waste of resources. How would you have done them differently?
A: Their biggest mistake was not paying attention to the advice of local fishermen. Fishermen from the locality will always have the best knowledge concerning fishing practices, tide and wind patterns, traditional fishing spots and such. Take the Kirinda Fishery Harbour for example. It was made without the expertise of the local fishermen and they constructed it in the wrong place. Now sand and water keeps filling the area and a special vessel has to be used to keep emptying it out. It is a complete failure. It is the same with Hambantota Harbour and the Tangalle Harbour.
However, in all projects by our government will seek the assistance of local fishermen through to completion. We have plans to build an anchorage in Mawella and Rekawa in this manner.
?: You were elected from the Hambantota District. What was Hambantota like during the former government?
A: I think one of the foremost reasons for the former President's end, were the acts of his henchmen; Pradeshiya Sabha members who were allied to him ran riot in Hambantota. The Nil Balakaya too caused havoc in the South. Over a 1,000 houses of his political rivals were destroyed in the past 15 years.
?: What about compensation for these victims of political revenge?
A: Our government has allocated a separate fund to be used as compensation for those who lost their jobs, property as a result of political revenge. However, I am disappointed to say that the monies assigned to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources have not been utilized to pay compensation, even still. I hope to discuss this matter with the Minister and rectify the situation.
?: What do you foresee for the future of the UNP?
A: The UNP is by far the cleanest and most democratic party in the country. We are also the only major party with both a leader and a deputy leader. We have the highest number of supporters, which the entire nation will see this May Day when our supporters gather in Colombo.
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