Puttalam – The Land of “White Gold”- That is Salt
A Newly Emerging Tourist Destination –but with Old History
Puttalam in the North-Western Province of Sri Lanka is also known as ‘The Land of White Gold’ because of its fame for salt. It covers an area of 1,149 Square Miles. It is widely believed that the name of ‘PUTTALAM’ was derived from the word ‘UPPU THALAM’ (‘UPPU’ meaning SALT, and ‘THALAM’ meaning ‘Production Zone) –which is more, or less an accurate identity of the place as Puttalam is –in fact –a salt producing zone. Together with the Kurunegala District, it forms the North-Western Province of Sri Lanka. The Capital Town of the Puttalam District is Puttalam. It is bound, on the North; by the Modaragam Aru, the Districts of Kurunegala and Anuradhapura on the East; the Ma Oya, on the South and the Indian Ocean, on the West. It is renowned for its picturesque lagoons, islands, shallow-sea fishing, prawn farming, and now, its venture into the Hospitality Trade. The lagoon has an abundant growth of mangroves, making it the home of fish of many hues, sizes and shapes. The Cement Factory and the Salterns are two of the main income providers of this town, besides the Coconut, Brick and Tile Industries.
Norachcholai between the town of Kalpitiya and Palavi has been developed into an Economic Centre, where all varieties of vegetables grown in the area are brought, for distribution throughout the district and even beyond the District Boundaries. Onions, Cabbage, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Beet, Cauliflower, Beans, are a few of the many varieties of vegetables brought to the centre at Norachcholai for distribution throughout the district. Fruits, like Papaya, Guava, various varieties of Plantains are also freely available. Norachcholai has also become well known for its Coal-Power Plant Project and also the Wind-Power Projects which generate a good amount of power.
The ALANKUDABEACH is a quite, tranquil eco-retreat in the rural Fishing village of Alankuda. Situated along a deserted 2 Kilometer stretch of pristine beach –it is an ideal get-way from the hustle and bustle of normal day-to-day life. It will provide an ideal ‘Base Camp’ for those intending to venture into the Wilpattu Game Sanctuary, the sacred city of Anuradhapura and the other ancient spots of historical interest in the area.
The Kalpitiya area is a fast-developing Tourist Zone. Nearly 50 Kilometers from Puttalam town, it is skirted by the sea on one side and the Lagoon on the other. Most of them bear a Cover of Mangroves. The Sri Lanka Tourist Board has launched a massive Tourist Development Project based in Kalpitiya in a bid to make Kalpitiya one of the most sought-after Tourist Destinations in South-East Asia by the end of the next decade. Another highly commercialized business is the Dried Fish business. Dried Fish from Kalpitiya always has a ready market.
FOURTEEN (14) virgin –unspoiled –islands, with unspoiled beaches of silvery sand, surrounded by the lapping waves of the Indian Ocean await the discovery by, and the arrival of tourists with a discerning eye, for nature at its unspoiled best. The lagoon surrounding the reef of Kalpitiya is dotted with a number of islands. The islands dotting the Lagoon are covered with mangroves of a Dark Green hue. The islands with the thick mangroves cover provide ideal shelter for both, local and migratory birds. Dolphins that could be spotted close to the shore. Turtles and whales can also be spotted off the shores of the islands.
VATTALANKUNDU is an island that was a main hide-out of the rebel Tigers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during the period of the separatist war. The rebels used this island to retreat and regroup after each clash with the government forces. The other islands are EEPANTHEEVU, ERUMATHIVU (BuffaloIsland), UCHCHAMUNAI, KOVILMUNAI etc.
The ancient Dutch Fort is an outstanding landmark in Kalpitiya. It is, at present being used as a Naval Base of the Sri Lanka Navy, called the ‘S.L.N.S. VIJAYA’. History has it that Prince Vijaya –the first prince to come to Sri Lanka –was washed ashore at Thambapanni, off Puttalam –nearly TWENTY FIVE (25) centuries ago.
The Wilpattu Game Sanctuary can be approached from Elavankulam on one side and Nochchiyagama on another. It lies just SEVEN (07) Kilometres by sea, from Kalpitiya. It has been the cynosure of many for its diverse bird and animal population. The Spotted Deer, the Barking Deer, Sambhur, the Peafowl, and jungle fowl are some of the fauna found in abundance here. The forest contains a variety of medicinal plants within its boundaries. The leopard, sloth beer and the Ant-Easter are commonly seen when traversing the paths of the sanctuary. The Mee Oya flows placidly through its wilderness. During the Pre-Terrorist era there was a well patronized Hotel alongside the Main Puttalam – Anuradhpura Road, and was commandeered by the Army when disturbances grew.
Among the many other places of interest to be seen in the area are The Salterns at Palavi, The Transmission Centre of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation at Karambe –between Palavi and Daluwa, The Shrine of St. Anne, at Thalawila –to which thousands make an annual pilgrimage –situated off the village of Palakuda near Kalpitiya, the Dutch Fort, the Dutch Church and the Naval Base (the Sri Lanka Naval Service ‘VIJAYA’) in the Kalpitiya Town; the house where the late M.T. Akbar the first Muslim or Malay Judge of the Supreme Court, was born –at Burgher Street, in Kalpitiya town.
All in all, Puttalam is a place of, both, commercial and financial value.