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Port City completes Rs. 500 m livelihood support program

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What could be tagged the largest community service program in the country, impacting thousands of lives, was brought to a close by Port City Colombo, at a ceremony held in Negombo earlier this week. The Fishermen’s Livelihood Support Society Ltd. (FLSSL), a Rs. 500 million outreach program to improve the lives of fishing communities spread across the Negombo, Wattala coastline, was a part of the tripartite agreement between Port City Colombo, the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and the Urban Development Authority, overlooked by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development.

“FLSSL which was launched in conjunction with dredging operations of the Port City, also acted as a nexus between the dredging and day-to-day fishing activities to ensure that minimum inconvenience was caused to all parties concerned,” said FLSSL Project Manager Ranjan Fonseka, adding that dredging operations were done according to agreed parameters, with GPS tracking to ensure transparency. The project manager said the same principle was adopted by FLSSL, especially in the disbursement of funds, which was done under the supervision of Fisheries and Megapolis Ministries.

“Our association received Rs. 2 million from Port City, which helped us in our development activities,” said Suranganie, President of Suhada Kantha Samithiya, Mookalangamuwa, Seeduwa. She added that this year the association is on an even stronger footing, as they were successful in doubling the initial grant, bringing it up to approximately Rs. 4 million for the current year. Suranganie says that FLSSL met all the requests made by her Association, including the provision of a health camp, free spectacles, training programs, etc.

Mervine Thamel, President of the Indiwara Co-operative Fisheries Society, Kammalthota, also addressed the gathering, stating that FLSSL should be taken as an example by other organisations, in terms of the unstinted support and orderly manner in which the program was conducted to uplift the lives of the fishing community.

B.L.E. Rufus, from the Seeduwa Lagoon Fishing community, said that something unique the Port City project has done through this program, was to give a new voice to a community which was sidelined up until three years ago. He says that FLSSL has removed certain obstacles fishery associations faced in driving their activities, by establishing a special fund that enabled them to function properly. He said that children in the community were also provided with opportunities for self-employment and overall the fishing community today, is strong and empowered because of FLSSL.

The program proponents say that projects implemented under FLSSL cover a wide range of activities, undertaken by the 77 registered village based fishery associations mainly in the Negombo to Wattala fishery divisions who were granted Rs. 2 million each totalling Rs. 154 million, as a revolving fund. 15,450 ‘Divisayura’ life insurance policies worth Rs. 16 million have been issued free of charge to fishermen during the three years of their operation, while 35 health camps were held in all Fisheries Inspector Divisions with over 6,000 patients receiving treatment and over 4,000 receiving spectacles.

Other activities successfully completed by FLSSL include the revamped Community Hall in Palagathuraya, refurbishing and equipping a preschool in Kudapaduwa, refurbishing and equipping the district office of the village fisher association at Pitipana Harbour; overhaul of St. Mary’s Church, Negombo ‘Jubilee Hall’, sun shades built for boats at Setthappaduwa KDM thotupola (anchorage), Dungalpitiya, Midigahawatta thotupola and the Manuel Pieris thotupola. The ‘lellama’ (fish market) was concreted and a wastewater disposal system was built for St. Anne’s fish market in Palagathuraya East along with security flashlights for the anchorage. The ‘lellama’ at St. Anthony’s anchorage Palagathuraya East was also concreted with high-powered flashlights installed for security. Street lamps and flash lights were installed at several anchorages and a 30,000 litre underground tank, pump and generator installed at the Kammaltota Indiwara Fisheries Society to store kerosene.

A beach nourishment program at Parana Ambalama, Suduwella and another location 600 m south of Suduwella, was undertaken by FLSSL at the request of ‘Madel’ fishers. It cost a little over Rs. 300 million, exceeding the total committed budget of Rs. 500 million. The project company also helped the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) construct two protective structures at the first sand pumping location – Parana Ambalama, to protect pumped sand from erosion.

The FLSSL core team comprised of experienced senior officials headed by former Secretary to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources G. Piyasena who was President, former Senior Director of the Department of Fisheries H.S.G. Piyasena who was the Operation Manager and the Port City Colombo Project Director Nihal Fernando and Deputy Director Piyusha Gunasekara who held membership of the executive committee.

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