Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

17 Trials and Tribulations of Sri Lanka's First Marine Sanctuary - The Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary by M.W. Ranjith N. De Silva1

1 39, Chapel Road, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

1. Introduction

Coral reefs are under tremendous pressure from over exploitation of resources, unplanned tourism development, pollution and other direct or indirect human related activities. They also face pressure from natural hazards such as storms, typhoons and cyclones, and at times overgrowths or population explosions of reef related organisms.

The concept of the need to conserve South Asia's coral reefs for sustainable use goes back much further than half a century. However, The first international Corals and Coral Reef Symposium held at Mandapam Camp, India in 1972, no doubt was responsible for the initiation of a concerted effort to focus attention on valuable coral reefs and the need for their conservation not only in the region, but worldwide.

During the past two decades, there has certainly been an increase in the awareness on the need to conserve and the need for the sustainable use of coral reefs of South Asia. In addition to the First Corals and Coral Reef Symposium mentioned earlier the "Symposium on Endangered Marine Animals and Marine Parks " held in Cochin, India in 1985, was also a mile stone in this direction. At this Symposium, De Silva (1985a) stated that "Although at many of these international gatherings, the need for rational management of coral reefs have been stressed, the coral reef management and conservation programmes of many developing countries of the Indo-pacific region have yet to receive the enthusiastic support of their governments". After a lapse of over 10 years this statement still appears to be valid. This is despite the large sums of money that has been spent in the name of coral reefs - more for meetings, workshops and conferences than for actual management oriented research and ground level action.

Major obstacles to coral reef conservation and management in developing countries, like for many other programmes, could be attributed to lack of sustained political will, lack of sufficient and dedicated skilled manpower - particularly at management and implementation levels -, and limited financial resources for ground level implementation where it is most required. Now more than ever, there is a need to change focus from talking, to doing something. Waiting for ideal conditions and for everything to fall into place might not be the answer.

The Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary (HMS), in Sri Lanka could be taken as an example to illustrate some of the conflicts spanning conservation, management, traditional and contemporary interests which have created problems to implementing ground level action to stem the degradation of the coral reefs.

2. The Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary

Hikkaduwa is a picturesque seaside fishing village located in the Galle District and lies approximately 100 kilometres south of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Its main natural assets are the golden sand beaches, high diversity coral reefs with brightly coloured fish, clear waters and the shallow reef lagoon. For the sustainable management of these natural assets, and in particular to provide some protection to the coral reefs, the 44.5 ha (110 acre) Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary was created on 18 May 1979 (De Silva, 1985b). Today, Hikkaduwa is one of the more popular coastal resort areas in Sri Lanka. The area has undergone rapid development of tourist facilities from one hotel in the 1960"s to nine big hotels and 125 guest houses, 40 restaurants, 157 shops, 5 dive stations in 1994 (Nakatani et al., 1994).

The Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary (HMS) could be taken as an after thought as critical irreversible changes had already taken place to the area and the coral reefs before it was declared a sanctuary. The status of the once unstressed coral reefs had already changed dramatically with the introduction of mechanised fishing boats to the reef lagoon, the tourist boom, and the collection of ornamental marine fish for a lucrative export market. The beach front is now almost completely occupied by hotels, guest houses or restaurants. The reef lagoon serves as an anchorage to over 30 mechanised fishing crafts that use massive concrete structures and heavy chains to anchor. Glass bottom boats numbering over 80 compete not only for passengers, but also for anchoring space on the beach. The level of pollution had also begun to steadily increase prior to the area being declared a Marine Sanctuary.

2.1 Historical background

On 25 October 1940 the Ambalangoda/Hikkaduwa Rocky Islets were declared as Sanctuaries under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Gazette No. 8675). The intention of these sanctuaries were to afford protection to seabirds nesting on the islands and limited to the land boundaries of the rocky islets. De Silva (1987) has stated that;

"Many people mistakenly believe that these sanctuary regulations were applicable to the marine environment and the coral reefs of Hikkaduwa as well".

The first real attempt to afford protection to the coral reefs was by the declaration in 1961 of 110 acres of territorial waters of Hikkaduwa under the Fisheries Ordinance (Gazette No. 12304 of 3rd March 1961) as an area from which no fish could be removed without a permit. This area included the fringing coral reefs and the reef lagoon where the shallow water good coral reefs were located. The main threats to the coral reefs at that time was from net fishing, spearfishing and ornamental fish collections. The fishing permits restricted fishing gears to hooks and lines, and cast nets. It also provided a list of colorful coral reef fishes that could not be taken from the area. Unfortunately, the two buoys placed in the sea to demarcate the seaward boundaries of the area were lost during the monsoon season. In the absence of these buoys the published regulations were not legally enforceable (De Silva 1985b and 1996) although respected by the fishing community.

In 1979, the fishery protected area declared in 1961, was gazetted as the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (Gazette No. 37 of 18 May 1979). It is interesting that no attempt was made to replace the buoys lost earlier which defined the seaward boundary.

In 1982, the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Authority (NARA) took the lead role in initiating government interest in coral reef based Marine Parks and Sanctuaries by appointing a Marine Parks, Sanctuaries and Refuge Committee which submitted a comprehensive report in 1982. The report provides details of areas considered suitable to be made into Marine Parks, Sanctuaries or Refuges (Fig. 1).

In 1985, the coral reef research team of NARA was formed under UNDP Project SRI/84/008. One of the first tasks undertaken by the team was to survey and report on the status of the coral reefs of Hikkaduwa and to propose a management strategy. The outcome was the proposal by De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985a) to administer the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary as a multiple use Marine Park zoned for different activities (Fig. 2). It was proposed that the Marine Park be divided into the following 3 zones (Joseph, 1986):

a) General Use Zone 'A': Where activities other than the following could be allowed:

· Use of anchors and anchor chains.
· Stepping and walking on corals.
· Removal of fish, corals and other marine organisms without a permit.

It was also recommended that;

· the number of glass bottom boats operating in this zone be restricted to no more than 5 at any one time.

· Rafts and mooring buoys be placed at strategic locations to prevent damage to corals by stepping and walking, and by the anchoring of boats.

b) General Use Zone 'B': Where activities other than the following could be allowed:

· Removal of fish and other reef organisms without a permit.
· Stepping, walking and anchoring of boats on corals and coral reefs.
· Entry into the Rocky Islets Sanctuary without a permit.

It was also recommended that;

· Mooring buoys need to be provided for boats near the Rocky Islets.

· Fish feeding could be encouraged as an additional tourist attraction,

c) Research Zone: This area has some relatively undisturbed coral and has been subjected to low visitor pressure as a result of strong currents especially during tidal changes. Although many of the usual activities such as bathing, swimming and surfing could be allowed as these activities were in areas devoid of coral, the following activities were not recommended:

· The entry of any boats into the lagoon reef area of this zone.
· The use of diving and snorkelling gear by unauthorised persons.
· The removal or disturbance of organisms unless for research by authorised persons.

Figure: 1 Location of Marine Parks, Sanctuaries and refuges proposed by the Committee on Marine Parks, Sanctuaries and Refuges Committee of the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA) in 1982.

Figure 2. Zonation of Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary (Park) proposed by De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985 b)

The demarcation of the 3 proposed zones was decided after an intensive one year study of activities by NARA with funding from the International Development Research Agency, Canada (IDRC). The study included surveys of the quality of the coral reefs using a line transect method (De Silva, 1984), local and foreign visitor activities, beach and water based activities, fishing and glass bottom boat operations etc. (De Silva, 1987).

In 1986, NARA with the assistance of the Urban Development Authority office in Hikkaduwa put up 2 concrete boards along Galle Road - one in front of the Hikkaduwa market and the other near the Coral Garden's office indicating that no corals, fish and other organisms could be removed from the Sanctuary without a permit. Posters were also put up in strategic locations with the same message.

Some of the steps recommended by De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985a) to prevent the degradation of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary included:

· Publicising the Hikkaduwa Sanctuary as an area from which no marine organisms whether dead or alive could be removed. This was primarily aimed at preventing the removal of corals, shells and ornamental fish.

· To allow traditional fishermen fishing with permits to continue to fish according to the terms and condition of the permit.

· Removing sand from the so called 'Fisheries Harbour' lying outside the Sanctuary and providing other amenities to enable the shifting of the fishing boats which anchor within the reef lagoon.

· Controlling the number of glass-bottomed boats through registration and issue of permits.

· Publicising Sections 14, 28 and 42 of the Coast Conservation Act, 57 of 1981 which makes it an offence to deposit wastes or other materials from out-falls, vessels or by other means and the removal of coral, shells, natural vegetation, etc. from the coastal zone as defined by the Act. The contravention of these regulations make a person liable in the first instance to:

I. A fine of up to Rs. 25,000.00 and/or
II. Imprisonment of either description not exceeding one year.
III. Confiscation of vessel, craft, boat, vehicle used in the commission of the offence.

De Silva (1987) also made the following recommendations:

a) Establishment of Marine Park Headquarters with:

i) Facilities for formal and non-formal education of the public including an aquarium, museum and auditorium facilities for showing films etc.

ii) Underwater guided tours and glass bottom boat tours of the Marine Park

iii) Changing rooms lockers and dean toilet and other facilities at a reasonable charge,

iv) Marine biological research facilities and Sufficient manpower and equipment to en force regulations of the Marine Park.

b) That it was feasible to transplant coral (based on coral growth studies using Alizarine dye) and selected fish varieties such as the Clown fish and sea anemones that have disappeared from the area.

The recommendations of De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985a) were ratified for action by the Urban Development Authority's (UDA's) meeting to discuss Development Projects of Hikkaduwa held on 22 August 1985. The Marine Park was the subject of discussion at several subsequent meetings of UDA's Development Projects of Hikkaduwa, where many of the interested departments numbering over 15 were present.

The long awaited breakthrough for the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary came on 17 December 1991 through a decision of a Committee appointed by the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Ministry of Tourism and Rural Industries for the purpose of discussing the implementation of the proposal for a Hikkaduwa Marine Park by De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985a). At this meeting chaired by the Honourable Minister of Lands, Irrigation and Mahaweli Development, the Department of Wildlife Conservation was identified as the agency which should be responsible for the development of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. This was to be carried out under the "Hikkaduwa Special Area Management Project" in collaboration with the USAID/Coastal Resources Management Project (CRMP) of Sri Lanka, Natural Resources and Environment Policy Project (NAREPP) and the National Aquatic Resources Agency (NARA).

Following the decision of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, several initial meetings chaired by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC) were held with the relevant departments, institutions and agencies to work out a management strategy for the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. In early 1993, the first Hikkaduwa Special Area Management (SAM) Committee Meeting was held (Nakatani et al. 1994). The SAM Committee interests were much wider than the interests of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary although it formed a major component. NARA provided the technical expertise and the CRMP Sri Lanka played an important catalytic role by assisting in the coordination of the activities of the committee. The SAM Committee now functions under the under the chairmanship of the Divisional Secretary, Hikkaduwa Division.

The formation of the SAM committee backed by DWLC, NARA, CCD and the CRMP Sri Lanka and the appointment of a Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee under the SAM Committee were significant developments in the history of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary.

The initiatives by the DWLC, NARA, CCD and the CRMP Sri Lanka with the concurrence of the SAM Committee during the period 1992 to 1996 led to several important developments which included:

a) The establishment of a CRMP Sri Lanka office at Hikkaduwa.

b) The establishment of a DWLC office in the Sanctuary area. Initially, the office was manned by 5 members of the DWLC Staff. At present, there are three, headed by an Assistant Ranger.

c) The putting up of colorful boards on the beach by the DWLC providing information on the need to protect coral reefs and marine life.

d) Catalysis of the process to initiate the building of a Fisheries Harbour to shift the mechanised fishing boats anchored in the reef lagoon to a location out side the Sanctuary.

e) Acquisition of a fibreglass boat and engine by the CRMP Sri Lanka which was later handed over to the DWLC.

f) Building local community awareness on the need to conserve the coral reefs for their own benefit. The presence of the CRMP Sri Lanka office (synonymous with NARA to most local people), the establishment of the DWLC office and the field surveys carried out by NARA had a very positive impact on creating awareness about the need to conserve coral reefs.

The initial focus of the DWLC was to prevent visitors to the Sanctuary from walking and stepping on coral, catching fish, breaking coral as well as removing coral and other organisms. There were several instances where the local youth were involved in preventing the removal of coral and even preventing people stepping or walking on coral.

g) The organisation of a beach cleanup with the hoteliers of Hikkaduwa providing lunch for the participants.

h) Publication of the following:

i) The Coastal Environmental Profile of Hikkaduwa in 1994 (Nakatani et al. 1994).

ii) Special Area Management Plan for Hikkaduwa Marine sanctuary and environs, Sri Lanka (Hikkaduwa Special Area Management and Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee, 1996).

iii) A flier handout on the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary.

On the negative side a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the legal provisions of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance which is very clear on traditional rights [Section 3(3)] led to a ban on the few elderly traditional fishermen holding valid fishing permits under the Fisheries Ordinance to fish in the area. Appeals by the fishermen went unheeded for one year. This is despite of it being brought to the notice of the SAM Committee, DWLC and CRMP Sri Lanka. 8 fishermen were finally issued with permits in April 1997. Of the 9 applicants one had died of old age, by the time the decision to issue permits was taken by the DWLC.

The Special Area Management Plan for Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary and environs, Sri Lanka (Hikkaduwa Special Area Management and Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee, 1996) adopted the zonation and several other recommendations as given by De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985a) for a Multiple Use Marine Park. Some of the significant differences were;

a) A new recommendation to increase the area of the Sanctuary from the original 45 ha (110 acres) to 100 ha.

b) The retention of the management of the Sanctuary under the DWLC instead of a separate authority for the management of the Marine Park.

2.2 Threats to the coral reefs and biodiversity

The major threats to the coral reefs of the HMS are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Main threats to the coral reefs of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary (De Silva, 1985b, 1987 and 1996; De Silva and Rajasuriya, 1985; Nakatani et al., 1994; Rajasuriya et al., 1995; and Hikkaduwa Special Area Management and Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee, 1996; De Silva, 1997)

a) Uncontrolled glass bottom and mechanised fishing boat activities:

- Spillage and discharge of diesel, kerosene and petrol

- Discharge of bilge and waste oil

- Disposal of wastes

- Damage caused by anchors and chains

- Glass bottom boats coming in direct contact with the coral Glass bottom boat operators stepping on coral to hold the boats steady for the passengers to get a better view of corals or to release boats caught on the reef.

b) Sedimentation

c) Collection of corals and shells as souvenirs

d) Tourists/visitors stepping and walking on live coral areas

e) Collection of ornamental fish/lobsters/organisms

f) Discharge of untreated/semi-treated effluents/sewage from hotels & restaurants.

g) Polluted freshwater runoff from canals.

h) Collection of ornamental fish/lobsters/organisms.

i) Changes to current patterns due to illegal constructions on the beach.

j) Discharge of waste by visitors

k) Use of explosives to catch fish just outside the Sanctuary.

I) An overgrowth of the calcareous green alga Halimeda invading into live coral areas.

2.3 Management issues

Although a substantial effort had been made between 1991 to 1996 to focus attention on the HMS and to stem the degradation of the coral reefs very little ground level action had been taken resolve some of the conflicts.

De Silva (1996) provides an analysis of what has led to many of the present problems of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary, the real problems at the ground level and proposed some ground level actions that could be taken to resolve some of the user conflicts and initiate the protection of at least small areas of good coral. He pointed out that the real problems at the ground level were:

a) The presence of over 30 mechanised fishing boats anchoring in the lagoon causing damage through anchors (usually large blocks of concrete) and chains as well as by spilling oil etc.

b) The increasing number of glass bottom boats - 22 in 1985, 50 in 1991, 66 in late 1995 and over 80 today.

c) It is interesting to note that De Silva and Rajasuriya (1985a) recommended a maximum of 5 GBB's in General Use Zone 'A' and 10 near the Rocky Islets (General Use Zone 'B'). The decision of the Hikkaduwa SAM Committee was to register and provide permits for 50 GBB's.

d) The meaningless enforcement of a ban on fishing by traditional fishermen who have been issued with permits by the Fisheries Department. This has angered and confused the small, and fast declining number of traditional fishermen.

e) The increasing number of glass bottom boats anchoring in the "Research Zone" from none in 1995, to three or more at present.

f) The self interests of politically and otherwise influential individuals having priority over all other concerns of the Marine Sanctuary.

De Silva (1996) also expressed the opinion that the key to protecting the coral reefs of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary would depend on the ability to;

a) Sustain the political will to rehabilitate the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary.

b) Obtain the support and goodwill of all the stakeholders and the community.

c) Enforce legal regulations without interference or favour.

d) Remove all the mechanised boats (fishing as well as the glass bottom) from the lagoon area into the proposed Fisheries Harbour.

e) Prevent the glass bottom boats from getting too close to the live coral and damaging them.

f) Rehabilitate the "Research Zone" to stand up as an example of what a good coral reef could be.

Everyone would agree that as the custodians of the sanctuary the task before the Department of Wildlife Conservation is enormous, in addition to working with an entirely new area - the marine environment, it had to face a large number of inherited complex problems.

In the face of all odds the Department has got a foot-hold in the sanctuary by establishing a small office and stationing staff on site. With a genuine effort on the part of the DWLC and the support of all parties concerned in the SAM process including the police, it might still be possible to rehabilitate the coral reefs and bring them back to their former glory.

De Silva (1996) also stated that without of waiting for all the elements of the SAM plan to fall into place, especially the construction of a Fisheries Harbour, some immediate actions would be required at ground level to protect the coral reefs and to minimise user conflicts.

2.4 Ground level action to resolve some user conflicts

During the period 10 March to 28 April 1997, several ground level management activities were carried out by the Coastal Management Center (CMC), Philippines with the assistance of NARA with funding from the University of Rhode Island/CRMP Sri Lanka (De Silva, 1997). These activities related to the implementation of the Marine Sanctuary component of Hikkaduwa SAM Plan were approved by the DWLC, NARA, CCD and the Hikkaduwa SAM and Marine Sanctury Coordinating Committee. The implementation of these management actions, particularly within a very short period of one and a half month as requested by CRMP Sri Lanka required not only community support and assistance but also an intimate knowledge of the HMS. For this reason the proponents of the first Management Plan for the HMS (De Silva and Rajasuriya, 1985a), closely associated with later research and management efforts of the HMS were involved in the process.

Some of the actions implemented and the processes involved were;

a) Demarcation of protected, snorkelling and bathing zones with buoys and float lines. Which necessitated the following;

i) Briefing the Special Area Management and Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee on 14 March 1997 on what was going to be done.

ii) Surveys of the reef lagoon with the coral reef researchers of NARA and the staff of the DWLC stationed at Hikkaduwa who were familiar with the HMS to identify areas for the protection of coral, snorkelling and bathing.

iii) Discussions with fishermen, traditional fishermen, glass bottom boat operators, reef front hoteliers, staff of the DWLC and dive group operators etc. on the proposed demarcation of zones

iv) Demarcation of the Protected, Snorkelling and Bathing Zones after discussions with stakeholders and shifting boats and anchors out of the identified areas. Shifting of buoy and float lines to accommodate additional requests that did not compromise the demarcation objectives.

v) Providing an additional opportunity for glass bottom boat operators to comment on the demarcated zones on 2 April 1997.

vi) Report on zone demarcation that has been carried out, problem of the overgrowth of the calcareous alga Halimeda posing a threat to the live corals of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary etc. to a meeting on 6 April 1997 chaired by the Director of the DWLC. All members of the Hikkaduwa Special Area Management and Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee, interested parties and the community at Hikkaduwa were invited to the meeting. It was attended by 68 interested persons. The only protest recorded at this meeting was about effluent being put out from hotels into the reef lagoon and that no action is taken against such offenders.

vii) preparation of the float lines, concrete anchors, fibreglass work, setting the concrete anchors for zone buoy etc. utilised traditional fishermen, glass bottom boat operators and other members of the local community.

viii) Painting 3 large notices on walls at strategic locations indicating activities that are not allowed within the Sanctuary. Local talent was contracted to do the job.

ix) Infra structure improvements to the DWLC office to make it habitable with provision of water and electricity as well as repairs to the roof and walls with funding from a sponsor from the local community.

In addition, the following were also accomplished which enhanced community awareness and participation;

a) Facilitated the issuing of fishing permits together with the DWLC to 8 traditional fishermen who had been banned from fishing in the HMS. This greatly assisted in obtaining ground level support and participation of the Hikkaduwa community to implement the programme of work.

b) A three day snorkel diving course from 25 to 27 March 1997 leading to PADI qualification for the Department of Wildlife Conservation staff, 7 local participants and one from the CRMP office, Hikkaduwa.

c) 2 day skin diving and basic marine biology from 8-9 April 1997 for 28 local youths.

d) 2 day course in first aid for local youth conducted by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society - 28 participants attended. There is now a core group of youth on the beach at Hikkaduwa who could be called upon to assist in cases of near drowning or in need of first aid assistance.

e) 2 day Halimeda (a calcareous green alga posing a threat to live coral in the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary) clean up which funded an average of 26 participants from Hikkaduwa to assist in the clean up. Funding was through IUCN Sri Lanka.

The DWLC the authority for the management of the HMS has been provided with a maintenance schedule in early June 1997. This provided details of immediate, short term and long term actions required to maintain the float lines and buoys demarcating the protected, snorkelling and bathing zones as well as the large notices drawn on the walls facing the HMS. No action seem to have been taken up to carry out the required maintenance.

The float lines and some of the buoys of the Protected and Bathing Zones as well as the buoys of the Snorkeling Zone (the float line was removed during the monsoon season) were still intact in October 1997. It is sad to note that although the Protected Zone was respected by the GBB's initially, slack or no enforcement has led to the entry of large numbers of GBB's into this area.

Ekaratne (1997) who carried out a research project for CRMP Sri Lanka 'On coral reef ecology at Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary' stated that "Reef studies in Sri Lanka are limited to inventorisation of selected reef resources (de Silva and Rajasuriya, 1985, Rajasuriya et al, 1995. The present study which incorporates the first study of an ecological nature on reef ecosystems in Sri Lanka is financed by a non-governmental body the NAREPP programme of the USAID".

It is indeed suprising that Ekaratne (1997) does not consider the work carried out by several others on the same coral reef of the HMS where he carried out his studies as ecological in nature. Let alone the reef ecosystems of Sri Lanka the following studies carried out on the coral reefs of Hikkaduwa are of a ecological nature or have strong ecological components: Tambiah and De Silva (1965), Mergner and Scheer (1974), De Silva and Rajasuriya, (1985a, 1985b and 1989), De Silva (1987), NARA (1987), Rajasuriya and De Silva (1988), Rajasuriya, (1992 and 1994), De Alwis, Dissanayake and Azmy, (1994).

Ekaratne (1997) was very critical of the management actions that had been taken to implement the Marine Sanctuary Management Proposals under the Special Area Management Plan for the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. It is ironical that he makes no reference to the Special Area Management Plan for Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary and Environs, Sri Lanka - a basic document on the management of the HMS. The Terms of Reference for plan implementation by the CMC had been sanctioned by the DWLC, NARA, CCD and the Hikkaduwa SAM and HMS Coordinating Committee. Further, it was carried out in consultation with the stakeholders of the HMS and the community at Hikkaduwa; first in small groups and then presented at the meeting for general comments on 6 April 1997, chaired by the Director of Wildlife Conservation. Despite these efforts and the fact that plan implementation was carried out under the leadership of the original proponents of the Hikkaduwa Marine Park management Plan with many years of research experience in the area. Despite all the effort that has been made to obtain the cooperation of the stakeholders and the community of Hikkaduwa Ekaratne (1997) made the following observations;

"It is strongly recommended that such plans be carefully considered and opened for public scrutiny before they are considered for implementation, particularly where visiting personnel from overseas are involved on short-term assignment basis as was the case with the above ill-conceived plans..."

As the criticisms were made by a responsible member of the Advisory Committee of the DWLC, this too might have added to the complex problem of managing the HMS. This also becomes a classic case of two projects funded by the same organisation leading to further confusion in management efforts.

3. Lessons to be learned from the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary

One can see in the HMS some of the common problems and conflicts of interest eg. fisheries vs conservation, tourism vs conservation and fisheries, and also the dangers of not preplanning prior to development of tourist and other facilities. Some of lessons that could be learned from the experiences of the HMS could be summarised as follows.

a) Although concepts could be developed and even legal declarations made, it takes a long time for the process to mature before some tangible results could be expected.

b) Regular and constructive pressure would be needed to keep the process in motion.

c) A practical management plan developed on a sound footing with a scientific basis could stand the test of time.

d) Implementation of even what appears to be simple ground level action requires the support and co-operation of the stakeholders and the community.

e) There should be some flow through benefits to the stakeholders and the community to get their whole hearted support and co-operation.

f) Constructive criticisms and viable options should be given due consideration. Baseless criticisms however, should not be a source of distraction or frustration as they will not stand the test of time.

g) There is a need to update and harmonise legislation to avoid overlapping responsibilities.

h) There is a need for regular monitoring and evaluation to determine progress of management actions and to keep on top of threats like pollution, sedimentation, population explosions of reef organisms. Monitoring would also enable the identification of new or increased human activities within and outside the area that could compromise the equilibrium of the coral reef ecosystem.

i) Highly stressed coral area such as the HMS cannot be considered as pure and natural ecosystems. Human interventions might be necessary keep the integrity and prevent it heading towards a new and completely different climax.


De Silva (1996) had stated that the Special Area Management approach in principle was good. But, the outcome would depend on whether all parties concerned were prepared to make the declared goal a reality by not making self interests override the common interests.

Some of the major constraints to the conservation and sustainable management of coal reefs in many developing countries could be summarised as follows:

a) The inability to convince the top policy and decision makers of the long term value and the possibilities of sustainable management of coral reefs.

b) The need for proactive, precautionary and anticipatory approaches to management efforts.

c) Preference for management by crisis rather than pre-planned strategic management.

d) The short term greed of a few over-riding the long term interests and needs of the majority.

e) Insufficient expertise to develop and implement practical management plans.

f) Lack of enthusiasm to enforce regulations.

g) Looking for excuses rather than looking for innovative ways of getting a job done.

h) Insufficient management oriented coral reef research such;

- The determination of carrying capacities and sustainable extraction levels of reef resources,

- Breeding of popular marine ornamental fish.

- Enhancement and rehabilitation of degraded reefs.

i) Lack of proper coordination and cooperation at national, regional and international levels to optimise the use of skilled manpower and available finances. This has led to competition among donor, aid and non-governmental agencies and to duplication of effort and waste of limited expertise.

j) International and other organisations spending more money and energy under the name of coral reefs, on meetings, workshops, conferences, publishing reports and proceedings etc., than for ground level action, truly management oriented research and community participation in management efforts.

Many of the present constraints to coral reef conservation and sustainable management efforts will continue to be issues of the future unless immediate corrective measures are taken. Recommendations of many meetings such as this may increase awareness among those present, but would rarely be taken up at top decision making levels unless packaged in a proposal format with viable options ready for a decision by those in authority.

At a regional level it is best to identify at least one pilot coral reef area for each country and make a concerted effort, with external funding and expertise where necessary, to manage the area as a model in conservation and sustainable use. Immediate steps should be taken in the region to plan for coral reef based tourism which is bound to be a major issue in the future. Enhancement of buffer zones of protected areas and compatible income generating activities for local communities should also be given due consideration (De Silva, 1994).

A mechanism need to be established to coordinate the efforts of various funding agencies interested in the conservation and sustainable management of coral reefs to prevent wasteful duplication of effort, and to focus attention on solving ground level management problems with true community participation.

In conclusion let me echo what has already been said earlier by De Silva (1996)

"Research and science alone will not help sustain our coral reefs. It is a dedicated and honest effort on the part of everyone involved including the politicians, scientists, managers, technocrats, stakeholders, the tourists, the police, the media as well as departments and institutions concerned that will determine what their future would be. We have to stop and think, and be honest with ourselves when we ask the question "are we really interested in sustaining the coral reefs and the communities or are we just using the coral reefs as an excuse to sustain our institutions, self interests and positions".

5. References

De Alwis, P., H. Dissanayake and S. Azmy (1994). Report on water quality aspects in the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. National Aquatic Resources Agency and CRMP, Colombo.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1984). Coral reef assessment and management methodologies currently used in Malaysia. In Comparing coral reef survey methods: A regional Unesco/UNEP workshop, Phuket Marine Biological Centre, Thailand, December 1982. UNESCO Reports in Marine Science 21: 47-56.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1985a). A strategy for the rational management of coral reefs. Proc. Symp. Endangered Marine Animals and Marine Parks. 1:440-447. Marine Biological Association of Cochin, India.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1985b). Status of Coral Reefs in Sri Lanka. Proc. of the 5th International Coral Reef Congress, Tahiti. 6:515-518.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. and Arjan Rajasuriya (1985a). Management plans for the proposed marine park. at Hikkaduwa. Paper presented at the 41st Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, 9-13 December, 1985.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. and Arjan Rajasuriya (1985b). Checklist of Stony Corals for Sri Lanka with ecological notes on new records. Paper presented at the 41 st Session of the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (Abstract published in the Session proceedings).

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1987). Effects of the tourist industry on coral reefs at Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Project Report to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). National Aquatic Resources Agency, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. and Arjan Rajasuriya (1989)- Collection of Marine Invertebrates of Sri Lanka (Phase 1) - Tangalle to Kalpjtiva as part of the Zoological Survey of Sri Lanka. 18 p. Report to the Natural Resources, Energy and Science Authority of Sri Lanka (NARESA) on NARESA/SAREC//ZSSL-2 Project funded under the NARESA/SAREC Zoological Survey of Sri Lanka.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1994). Future issues and challenges for marine protected areas in South Asia. Paper presented at the 42nd Working Session of the Commission on National Parks and Protected Area (CNPPA) of IUCN, Islamabad, Pakistan.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1996). Coral Reefs: Research, Management Plans and Ground Level Action. Paper presented at the Regional Workshop on "Research for the Management of Coastal resources in the Tropics" 9-10 October 1996. National Aquatic Resources Agency, Colombo 15, Sri Lanka.

De Silva, M.W.R.N. (1997). Implementation of the marine sanctuary management proposals under the Special Area Management Plan for the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary: pp. 19. Coastal Management Center, Ortigas Center, Philippines and Coastal Resources Management Project, Sri Lanka.

Ekaratne, S.U.K. (1997). Coral Reef Ecology at Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. Final report submitted to the Coastal Resources Management Project, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka.

Hikkaduwa Special Area Management and Marine Sanctuary Coordinating Committee (1996). Special Area Management Plan for Hikkaduwa Marine sanctuary and environs, Sri Lanka. Coastal Resources Management Project, Coast Conservation Department, National Aquatic Resources Agency, Colombo, Sri Lanka. 78 pp.

Joseph, Ranjan (1986) Saving Hikkaduwa from being submerged. Reported in the News paper "The Island" of Sunday 22nd June 1986. Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Mergner, H. and Scheer, G. (1974). The physiographic zonation and ecological conditions of some South Indian and Ceylon coral reefs. Proc. 2nd Int. Coral Reef Symp. Vol. 2:3-30.

Nakatani, K., Arjan Rajasuriya, Anil Premaratne and Allan White (1994). The Coastal Environmental Profile of Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. Coastal Resources Management Project, Colombo, Sri Lanka. 70 pp.

NARA (1987). Preliminary hydrographic and ecological survey of the Marine Sanctuary, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Sri Lanka: 33pp. National Aquatic Resources Agency.

Rajasuriya, A. (1992). Preliminary report on the present status of the coral reef at Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. 3 p. National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Rajasuriya, A. (1994). Report on the present status of the coral reefs in the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) and the Coastal Resources Management Project, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Rajasuriya, A. and M.W.R.N. De Silva. (1988). Stony corals of the fringing reefs of the Western, South-western and the Southern coasts of Sri Lanka. Proc. Sixth Intl. Coral Reef Symp., Australia 3: 287-296.

Rajasuriya, A., M.W.R.N. De Silva and Ohman, C. (1995). Coral reefs of Sri Lanka: human disturbance and management issues. Ambio Vol. 24 No. 7-8:428-437.

Tambiah, M.S. and M.W.R.N. De Silva (1965). A preliminary survey of the marine algae in a restricted area in Hikkaduwa. 21 st Proc. Ceyl. Ass. Adv. Sci.: p.41.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page