What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over. After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka. Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police. However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about. Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.
***Don’t forget to read to the bottom for a more recent update***
The newest development happened quickly. On May 11th, 2018 government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots. The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”. This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach. Check out this article to read more from a local news report.
This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper. Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol. These places are still standing after the bulldozing. Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses. These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.
There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa. It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.
The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast. After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures. These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand. Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?
With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover. Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.
We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront. And don’t forget the sunsets! Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were. What do you think? Did the government make the right decision? Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again? Comment below!
UPDATE October 2018:
We recently went to Mirissa to see if anything has changed. The season is starting and tourists are beginning to flood to the area. The beach is still a mess, lots of the debris has never been cleaned up. Also, several of the bars/restaurants have reopened in the structures that were not eliminated. All the rubble just makes the beach not seem as nice as it used to be. The parties are apparently up and running again and we are curious to see if any of this destruction will change anything in the long run.
What we are doing now? We’re in the Tuk Tuk Tournament in Sri Lanka! Check out our Youtube series about the adventure!