The Unawatuna Story, First Hand
No businesses were demolished in Unawatuna.
The beach, however, has been wrecked, at least temporarily. I drove down to Unawatuna on the Southern Expressway and you can see that things are both better and worse than you would imagine. Hotels And Restaurants Are Not Destroyed
It is not like Kingfisher is destroyed, just their deck, which was basically in the ocean anyway. Behind that is a three story boutique hotel (less than a year old I think). That is fine. I tried to walk along the beach to other spots, and that is the trouble. The beach is, at least temporarily, ruined. The bulldozers have left rubble and broken trees and concrete everywhere and it is a mess. Talked to a few owners and they said it was (at least effectively) up to them to clean it up. This being peak season, that is going to be a pain. In Colombo we just heard about this from the Taiwanese wires of all things, so people were like OMG, but it is actually not so bad. When I saw the scene the first thing I thought was how not bad it was. I thought like Kingfisher was gutted and the owners were destitute. They look to be doing better than ever and the strip looks great. I have only been away for like a year and there are already huge new hotels, and they are nice.
But The Beach Is A Mess
What is messed up is the beach. First, because people built on it (at high tide you would basically have to swim around Kingfisher’s deck to pass), and second because the government demolished it and left most of the mess. If they do not clean it up soon those huge rocks and stuff will wash back into the sea and people will be stubbing their toes for years to come. Which is deeply uncool.
This is a problem. I really hate stubbing my toes and so do tourists. I am really hoping the government sends bulldozers and cleans the mess up at low tide. Bill the illegal constructors, whatever. I thought they had lost their livelihoods, but they have not. They all look to be doing really well. But please clean up the beach. I swim there.
Rights And Wrongs
These structures were illegal. They were actually a bad idea, bad for the environment, tourists, etc. They made certain parts of the beach impassable at high tide and you basically should not build on the beach itself, as anyone who has made a sand castle would know. It has been the law that they should be torn down for years, and these guys were warned years and then months in advance. The thing is that the government finally did something that needed to be done.
As with the vegetable crate issue, however, they could have done it much better. First, this should have been done off season. Tourists are there now and it looks like tsunami again – though parts of the beach are fine. Try Jungle Beach if you really have a problem. They could have done this off-season, and they should have taken the time to move the rubble. Because clearing structures to preserve the environment and, in the process, destroying the environment is not what I would call a win. They still have a short window to make it not fail.