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Social-ecological Dynamics in Rapid Economic Development: Infrastructure and Coastal Change in South

ICES is part of a consortium of researchers investigating the social and ecological changes taking place along the Southern and Eastern coasts of Sri Lanka. The project, a first of its kind, brings together researchers and students from the Eastern University, the University of Ruhuna, the University of Peradeniya, the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, and the French Institute in Pondicherry, to map, track and develop, a nuanced understanding of the rapid transformation taking place in coastal economies, infrastructure and lifestyles.

For over half a century, Sri Lanka has seen major changes along its eastern and southern seaboards. These changes have been the result of major infrastructure projects such as the investment in ports and the expansion of irrigation schemes, the huge growth in tourism, especially since the end of the war, natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and floods, and the onset of peace especially in the east. These changes have had significant impacts on coastal environments, biodiversity and national parks, local economies, and community relationships. They have created new opportunities on the one hand and opened new vulnerabilities on the other.

This project, titled Social-Ecological Dynamics in Rapid Economic Development: Infrastructure and Coastal Change in South-Eastern Sri Lanka or SEDRIC, and supported by the French Embasy in Sri Lanka, will strive to generate evidence-based findings on the impact these changes are having on coastal communities, livelihood opportunities, and the physical environment of the two regions. The project will look at several sub-themes. These include the impact of the changes on coastal erosion, on biodiversity in national parks, and the impact on conservation policies. The project will also seek to map those areas vulnerable to climate change and coastal erosion through remote sensing. By mapping and tracking major developments since the 1970s in and around the south-eastern coast of the country, the study sets out to develop a sophisticated understanding of the links between economic development, social transformation, infrastructure growth, land use, land cover change, nature conservation, tourism and local livelihood opportunities. In its research, ICES will focus on the impacts of post-war infrastructure development on coastal communities in the Trincomalee and Batticaloa areas.

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