Sri Lanka’s first underwater museum, which was opened by Navy Commander Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva, off the shores of Galle was declared on 17 June. The museum, which was designed and created by the Navy, utilising sculptures and other artifacts, was built off the Galle shores under the supervision of the Navy Commander, upon a proposal made by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Navy Media Spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Isuru Sooriyabandara shared that the project which began in the month of February was expected to be declared in April when it was completed and opened. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation intensifying in the country and the armed forces being called on for assistance, they were otherwise occupied and greatly short staffed.
He also shared that due to the monsoon, there was worry that the layout could not be seen and that the turbulent waters would distort it from view and access. Therefore, due to such worries and to avoid visibility issues, they were able to acquire the go ahead to declare it on Wednesday (17).
Referring to the previously original plan of using unusable train compartments in order to create a breeding ground for fish, Lt. Cmdr. Sooriyabandara said that a great example can be seen in Negombo where there is wreckage that has been dumped in the shores there and we see a fantastic ecosystem created for itself. It has become an amazing fish breeding ground; you can see a number of types of barnacles, corals, and ornamental fish which affects the people in that area, both directly and indirectly.
He said that the same thing can be applied here in this new museum arrangement as well, serving as an underwater structure built to promote marine life, control erosion, block ship passage, block the use of trawling nets, and improve surfing, and while in Europe and the West we see examples of this happening, this is the first of its kind in the South Asian region.
He shared that one of the main and most exciting features is the depth at which the museum is stationed, sharing that the whole underwater storey is set at a depth of around 50 ft. in the Galle Harbour area, providing a unique sightseeing experience and allowing any normal diver to access the display. He added that there need not be any special assistance by highly trained or special expertise personnel.
Lt. Cmdr. Sooriyabandara said that in figuring out the location, they had considered a number of locations, and in their search they took into consideration the underwater profile, weather patterns, and also the tourism industry in the vicinity. As such, the Galle Harbor was chosen, as it’s already a tourist hotspot. He shared that it is an accessible location to which transport can be easily arranged with many recognised diving schools in the area, and it will be the ideal location to achieve their primary goal of driving tourism traffic to Sri Lanka.
He also stated that while there are plans to carry out similar projects in both Trincomalee and Tangalle, we must first study the successes and setbacks, if any, in this particular project, which could take some time, and must study the nature of this project so that we can move on to a second step.
The construction work for the project was carried out utilising the manpower of the Sri Lanka Navy and he shared that the Navy will also dedicate itself to maintaining and looking after the project without any charge. However, it is up to the diving schools and tourism officials to market this appropriately, drive in tourism towards this area, and use it as a main point of attraction. They are hopeful that this underwater sculpture park will contribute greatly in driving tourism to our island.