THE KADIRGAMAR INSTITUTE HOSTS SEMINAR ON “SRI LANKA’S OCEAN RESOURCE: OUR HIDDEN GOLD MINE”
Posted on February 27th, 2013

Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies

 20th February, 2013, Colombo.

 The Seminar “Sri Lanka’s Ocean Resource: Our Hidden Gold Mine” was conducted by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies on the 20thof February 2013 from 2pm to 6 pm at the Kadirgamar Institute. The seminar brought together eminent personalities and scholars in the field of Indian Ocean studies and marine environment. The seminar was attended by diplomatic corps, government officials, foreign dignitaries, representatives of international organizations, academics, students, media and the general public. The two sessions of the seminar were followed by Question and Answers between the speakers and members of the audience and concluded with a networking session.

 The seminar commenced with the welcome address given by Mr. Asanga Abeyagoonasekara the Executive Director of the Kadirgamar Institute, who spoke of the importance of the oceans to Sri Lanka as an Island Nation and the lack of interest and forums such as this to highlight the issues and challenges, having the mandate to discuss issues pertaining to the environment and its strategic implications, the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute in its capacity is fulfilling this gap. In addition he also stated that the last stock assessment was done only in 1982 and that we don’t have a vessel monitoring system in place, though one was implemented during his tenure as Chairman Fishery Harbours he is unaware of its further development.  He concluded his speech by stating that if managed properly the ocean which is seven times more than our land area and our EEZ which is 53, 2619 Sq. KM  is a gold mine.

The first speaker of session one was the Head of Departments Oceanography and Marine Geology at the faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences and Technology at the Ruhuna University, Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara. He gave a description of the Coastal and Marine ecosystem and enlightened us on the various marine life that breed in the shallow waters of the ocean, the largely undiscovered deep sea eco system which comprises of 62% of the entire globe and further explained the pelagic and intertidal ecosystem and went on to discuss if the Marine and Coastal Ecosystems in Sri Lanka are doomed or blessed as the various fishing practices and pollution are destroying the natural resources endowed on us. He ended his speech by stating that it is the individual’s responsibility to protect our coastal waters and Marine life.

 The Navy Commander Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage who was the next speaker opened his speech with some insightful quotes one of which was by Pandith Jawaharlal Nehru “to be secure on Land We must be supreme at Sea.” He went on to explain the strategic role that Sri Lanka plays in the Indian Ocean Region, as 25% of the Sea Lines of Communication fall within our national jurisdiction and there is a daily traffic of about 100 to 120 ships on average.  He further explained the Navy’s role in combating terrorism, piracy and the rescue of illegal immigrants most recently the Myanmar Nationals. Furthermore he stated that “Thousands of Indian fishing trawlers are plundering our wealth in the Sri Lankan waters and the Sri Lankan Navy has to perform a very difficult job. It is like our hands are tied behind our backs and we are expected to do our jobs. Because the moment we act it becomes a bilateral and diplomatic issue.

We know that they are doing it, no one is denying that the Indian fishermen are trawling in our waters.” The Navy Commander spoke of our mineral, fisheries and the sea bed resources and historically how Sri Lanka was a ship building nation and is the interest of super powers in the region. The next speaker was Dr. SinhaRaja Tammita- Degoda who spoke under the topic “Sri Lanka and the Sea.

The environment as a geopolitical tool” he explained that Sri Lankan diplomacy is reactive and that we haven’t taken an active role in taking initiatives forward and should associate ourselves and participate actively and play a bigger role in international organizations such as the International Coral Reef Initiative, UNEP programme, CITES””‚the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora etc. He also stated that “environmental concerns transcend national boundaries, political divisions and geographical boundaries and the negative impact of these are common to all nations and one nation alone cannot tackle environmental issues.

The purpose of environmental diplomacy is to bring in more countries to a common ground where they can reach a mutual agreement by discussion” The final speaker of Session one was Mr. Patrick Evans, the country representative for FAO in Sri Lanka.He spoke of the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project (BOBLME) which supports the implementation of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management, he explained that a large no of population depended on fisheries as a livelihood and the project was with the aim of improving the lives of the coastal populations through better regional management to increase the fisheries harvest. He further gave an overview of the fisheries industry in Sri Lanka and he also explained that Sri Lanka has a good legal framework and  planning system  but the lack of compliance with the fisheries rules and regulations  and the need for clearer policy  directions are some of its weaknesses. Among the questions discussed there were many questions directed at the Navy Commander with regard to the illegal fishing by Indian fishermen and it was also suggested why the region can’t be declared as a marine park and the practicality of this.

 The Second session of the seminar was moderated by Mr. Gritakumar Chitty who was the former Secretary General for the United Nations International Tribunal for the law of the Sea and the session began with the presentation given by Mr. Arjan Rajasuriya on the “Future of Coral Reefs in a Rapidly Changing Environment.” Mr. Rajasuriya gave a description of the evolution of the coral reefs and the reasons for the degradation of the reefs. Furthermore he spoke of the anticipated threats to the habitats and bio diversity and how the resilience of the reefs can be improved. 

The Second speaker was Mr. Dulip Jayawardena who spoke of the “Non living resources of the Sri Lankan Space”. He spoke on the history of hydrocarbons, heavy minerals, and phosporite explorations in Sri Lanka and what measures need to be taken in the future to develop these resources. The next speaker was the chairman of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, Dr. N.P. Wijayananda who discussed the topic “Delimitation of Sri Lanka’s Legal continental Shelf – Challenges and Anticipated benefits”. He gave a description of the Islands continental shelf and the special case of Sri Lanka and the challenges ahead as certain states are trying to limit our continental shelf to 350 nautical miles even though it can go beyond, and the overlapping areas with other countries that needs to be dealt through bilateral discussion and India’s claim as a neighbouring state. Dr. Sithara Fernando spoke of the “Co “”…” operation in the Indian Ocean Region: Towards the Coexistence of IOMAC and IOR “”…” ARC”, he elaborated on the need to maintain and build on these institutions in order to build regional co-operation and gave a historical overview to the reasons behind establishing the two organisations and building a case as to why they must be collaborated in order to synergise.

The final presentation was given by Ms. Tilrani Amath who represented the Tuna Exporters Association. Ms. Amath gave an outline of the fisheries sector of Sri Lanka and the facilities provided by the government and went on to discuss the issues pertaining to the industry namely the non extension of the GSP plus facility, in addition she gave an outline of the development work done such as micro credit facilities available the livelihood and enterprise development facilities done in the post conflict areas of the North and the East of the Island.

 

 

One Response to “THE KADIRGAMAR INSTITUTE HOSTS SEMINAR ON “SRI LANKA’S OCEAN RESOURCE: OUR HIDDEN GOLD MINE””

  1. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    Remembering Kadirgamar

    http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/lakshman-kadirgamar-the-father-i-remember/

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