Hamilton canal a magnet for ecotourism

Friday, 18 October 2013 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

An unprecedented number of foreign and local tourists are visiting the historic Hamilton Canal since it was developed.  The canal – which was begun during the Dutch rule of Sri Lanka’s Maritime Provinces to transport goods and completed in 1802 under the British Colonial Government – has today become a source of sustainable livelihood for a many people in its vicinity. The newly-developed canal was opened to the public on 2 August use after being developed in an environment-friendly manner under Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s guidance. Until then it had been a highly polluted waterway and a source of ill-health for decades.  Today nearly 8,000 people visit the canal area on weekends and it has become a major attraction for foreign tourists, according to a Western Province Tourism Ministry spokesman. The Moratuwa University’s Town Planning Studies section prepared the Hamilton Canal development plan which was implemented by the Economic Development Ministry. Under the plan’s First Stage a distance of eight kilometres from Negombo Lagoon to Dandugum Oya river delta was developed. Under the second stage a distance of 11 km is scheduled to be developed.  A part of this, an extent of three km from Hekiththa on the Kelani River in the Wattala Pradeshiya Sabha area to Elakanda has already been done. Hamilton Canal project was launched with the objective of developing the Negombo Tourism Zone. In connection with this steps have been taken to protect the rich biodiversity of the area thus protecting different species of fish, flora and fauna of in and around the canal. Under this project a handrail bridge to Hekiththa and jogging tracks have been built while five bridges have been repaired and renovated.  Trees have been planted on either side of the canal, seats have been constructed and 50 solar-powered lamps have been fixed on the banks.  Also a two-km extent of the road parallel to the canal has been concreted and the boatman who earlier transported people across the canal has been given a job as watcher of the bridge.  The canal has become a source of livelihood for nearly 100 families engaging in small businesses for which the necessary infrastructure has been built. The Sri Lanka Lands Reclamation Corporation and Provincial Road Development Authority carried out the programme with Japanese Government Assistance.