Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ECO-V members in Jaffna

Finally we were able to visit the North of Sri Lanka in March. We as Sri Lankans have been waiting for this trip for last 30 years. With tribute to all who sacrificed their lives to liberate the motherland, today thousands of Sri Lankans are making their trips to Jaffna every week bridging the gap between North and South of the country. Therefore we thought of as environmentalists and nature lovers we should visit the Northern part of beautiful Sri Lanka on an environmental visit.
A team of 14 (unfortunately we had to limit the number due to transportation and accommodation issues) from ECO-V left Colombo of on February 26th at 4pm. First night we spent in Sarvodaya district centre in Anuradhapura .Most of us were familiar with it as we used to stay there during our Pelican conservation project in 2003-2007. After sleeping few hours we started the journey again at 5am from Anuradhapura and reached Chettikulam around 6.30am. Dr. Shafras a friend of Thushara joined us from there as he has been to Jaffna for several times and none of us have even seen Jaffna before. We visited a lovely tank at Chettikulam according to Shafra’s directions and conducted a bird watching session. Few university students who were new to ECO-V had the opportunity to learn bird watching as we spent around 2hrs in Chettikulam before we headed to Jaffna. Iranamadu tank, Hasalaka Gamini Kularatne memorial at Elephant pass and well known Kilinochchi water tank were the main sites we saw on our way as these spots were well highlighted during the war and for past 30 years. We had our lunch at Paranthan and reached Elephant pass which is the most beautiful area in the A9 road. Unfortunately we could not stop and enjoy environment in the area due to security reasons (land mines were not cleared still and we saw soldiers and de-mining teams were busy working even under hot sun). We reached Jaffna around 5pm and Mr. Sridaran from Jaffna Sarvodaya was waiting for us at Nallura Kovil who arranged us accommodation. It was a nice house where we all happily settled down. We had a short discussion after having dinner in the Jaffna city and all were happy about being able to visit Jaffna after so many years.
Next day morning we all went to Nagadeepa. Thanks to Shafras who was able to make special arrangements for us as many people were still waiting in a long queue, we managed to visit Nagadeepa quickly. It was a lovely 20 minute journey on a very crowded ferry and we were told that more than 200,000 people were there during that weekend as it was a Full moon Poya day. On our way from Nagadeepa we went to Arali point in Jaffna, to see the place where General Densil Kobbekaduwa, General Vijaya Wimalaratne and few other heroes sacrificed their lives for Sri Lanka 13 years ago. We all were speechless when we saw the monument.
As an overall picture about Jaffna peninsula it is not polluted still but it is getting polluted as many people are visiting the area. We all were shocked to see how people dumped garbage even in Nagadeepa Island and no attention is paid by any responsible people in the area. Army and Navy personnel were telling public not to pollute the environment but their effort it was not enough for careless people who are visiting the area. Many lagoons and bird sanctuaries are still need security clearance but we saw many birds from distance. We all were thrilled to see few Pelicans in Elephant pass lagoon. After a very successful two day trip we came back to Colombo with the intention of going back when all the areas are open to public.