I arrived in Batticaloa on Tuesday. The scenery surrounding this small town on Sri LankaТs east coast is as stunning as its people are welcoming. The clear waters of the lagoon that surrounds Batticaloa end in thick vegetation and all the shades of green one can imagine. The people here must be among the friendliest in South Asia, quick to greet outsiders with a smile, a nod, and if they can manage it, a Уgood morning.Ф
But all is not well in Batticaloa. The town was first ravaged by war and then by the tsunami. BatticaloaТs tourist industry was crippled when Sri LankaТs civil war intensified in the 1990s. The guesthouse I am staying in was closed for five years, and only reopened to host the foreign NGOs that swarmed here to help control the conflict. Batticaloa now operates under an unofficial and tenuous truce between the government and the LTTE: the army is in charge during the day, and the LTTE takes over after dark.
When the conflict subsided, the tsunami came. Reminders of the tsunami are omnipresent, from leveled brick houses half a mile from the oceanТs edge, to toys in a tree on the guesthouse grounds, deposited there by the tsunami and preserved by the guesthouse staff. The local beaches, which were once calm enough to guarantee safe wading for a six-month-old, are now potholed, littered with debris, and hardly fit for recreation. The singing fish that the lagoon was once famous for have not returned since the tsunami.
Two nights ago, I was standing at the edge of the lagoon looking for some respite from the areaТs oppressive heat. The serene silence was interrupted only by the distant barks of stray dogs and the occasional splash of a fish jumping out of the water. Looking up, I could see the stars trace almost perfect silhouettes of the palm trees. It was hard to believe that such devastating forces, of both natural and human creation, could percolate under the surface of this tropical paradise.
Posted By Sarosh Syed (Sri Lanka)
Posted Jun 9th, 2005