147 Galle Road (Parrot Junction)

Urawatte, Ambalangoda | Sri Lanka

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  • Arthur Max

Living on the Beach


It can be tough living on the beach.

And wonderful at the same time.

A walk on the beach is one of the joys of the Wadiya. The soft sand is firm and cool underfoot from the waves, the sun is warm on your back, a brilliant blue ocean is on one side, a strip of bright green is on the other. The pounding of the surf drowns out the distant sound of the road.

You can lose yourself in a sense of timelessness.

But maintenance at a boutique hotel a constant battle against rust and invasions of the salty sea air. And sand.

The beach itself is a challenge. Every morning one of our boys takes a rake to the sand all across our frontage to pick up bits that have washed up overnight. He’ll do it again later in the day,

Rubbish in the oceans is a real problem affecting beaches like ours all around the world.

Plastic bags, plastic toys, plastic shampoo bottles, plastic toothbrushes; you name it. They’re all floating in the water and inevitably get washed up on shore. Perhaps the worst are the Styrofoam packing materials, which break up into pieces large, small, tiny and microscopic.

It’s only been 50 years since plastic became commonly used. Today we produce 300 million tons of it every year. Only 5% gets collected and recycled.

About 8 million tons find their way into the oceans. Within 10 years, that will increase to 80 million tons unless we learn to manage our garbage, according to a piece in Science about a year ago.

That’s why I don’t really mind paying the 5 pence Waitrose supermarket in London now charges me for taking one of their bags. It really does cut down usage, even if the cost is insignificant. More countries and localities are doing the same.

Is it too late?

Trillions of plastic pieces are floating in the seas. They are swallowed by fish, sea turtles and birds. Who has not seen the famous photos of dead albatrosses near the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Their stomachs were filled with bottle caps and other debris.

This crap works its way up the food chain. No, we’re not eating bottle caps, but we are eating fish that have ingested small plastic pieces and micro beads containing toxic chemicals.

This is not just a Sri Lankan problem. The global costs are enormous.

On the West Coast of the United States it costs about $500 million a year to clean up the beach trash. By some estimates, damage to fishing, shipping, industries and tourism amounts to $13 billion a year.

We at Max Wadiya are pedantic about keeping our patch of beach clean. One or two of the other small hotels are as well. But not all, regrettably.

The Wadiya is nicely positioned, half way along the 2-kilometers stretch of sand. A walk in either direction is a pleasant half-hour, despite some jarring scenes of rubbish.

Still, look at the big picture. Around sunset I stand on the little crest of the property and watch the changing color of sea and sand as the light fades. It’s eternal.

There’s not a bit of plastic to be seen.

#boutiquehotel #beach #ocean

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