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The Young Researchers Forum 2012 20th & 21st January, 2012 Western Province Aesthetic Resort, Colombo

Session: Environmental Concerns and Challenges Date: 21st January, 2012 Time: 9.00am-10.00am
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The Young Researchers Forum 2012 Youth Voice: The Missing Link in Sri Lankas Environmental Discourse Thiagi Piyadasa This paper is part of an ongoing research that aims to understand and evaluate the role of young people in Sri Lankas environmental discourse. In a context where economic development is presented as the keystone to reconciliation and reconstruction that can be achieved by promoting and strengthening specific industries such as tourism, environmental concerns emerge as critical issues for consideration and action. Therefore, the first part of this paper analyzes the National Strategy for Sri Lanka Tourism 2009-2012 in light of a claim made by the same document aiming to make tourism the largest foreign exchange earner benefiting the stakeholders of tourism and the peoples of Sri Lanka1.

The paper specifically looked at two key tourist development projects in Kalpitiya and Negombo, to determine to what extent these projects have benefited the stakeholders of tourism and the peoples of Sri Lanka. The analysis found that while the strategic plan highlights the sustainability of all tourist projects, issues relating to employment generation, land grab and compensation, displacement of homes and livelihood are some of the negative by-products of these projects. There are several issues that have to be resolved, for it is not clear how the State understands and applies the concept of sustainable tourism, neither have they made it clear as to who the stakeholders of tourism are. In practice it appears that the local community has been excluded as stakeholders. The analysis is also informed by scholarly work which shows that while tourism usually promises to provide employment to the local community, the jobs that are created are mostly unskilled, menial and poorly paid, partly due to the issue of

National Strategy for Sri Lanka Tourism 2009-2012, p. 10.

The Young Researchers Forum 2012 structural inadequacies within developing countries to ensure that benefits of tourism and development trickle down to the masses2.

The second part of the paper, which is ongoing, aims to look specifically at the role of youth in environmental law, and what implications this would have on the environmental discourse in Sri Lanka, especially in light of the issues raised in the first part of the paper. International instruments governing environmental law emphasis the need for sustainable3 consumption and utilization of resources. Viewed from a rights perspective, this paper seeks to argue that the emphasis on the rights of the future generation within environmental law and principles, inherently make it the business of young people to take a more active role in voicing concerns on environmental issues, and taking action regarding the same.

The lack of opportunity for youth engagement in environmental issues is a gap in policy and practice that should be addressed at formal and informal levels. As the country emerges from a protracted war, it is imperative that all citizens feel they have a role to play in determining their future. Deprivation and competition over limited resources could, if not controlled at the onset, lead to renewed conflict between communities competing for limited resources.

Research methods included literature reviews of policy documents, existing documentation of campaigns, websites and news articles, information materials used to raise awareness among the local communities in Negombo and Kalpitiya, and presentations, talks and interviews by activists and the local community.
Britton 1982: 336 in Martin Mowforth and Ian Munt. Tourism and Sustainability: Development, Globalisation and New Tourism in the Third World. Routledge: New York, 2009. p.53.

The Young Researchers Forum 2012