Heritage activities in Galle are a hit with the population

February 2009 -

In the walled town of Galle in southwest Sri Lanka, Dutch funding has made it possible to continuously work on restoring the unique heritage. Successfully: most of the projects have now been concluded and tourism is increasing. The special aspect about these projects was the involvement of the local population. A clear example is the restoration of the Dutch colonial houses in the city centre. Many traces of the Dutch can be found in Galle that originated in the era when the Dutch used it as a trade centre for their East India Company. Over time, however, the buildings have eroded significantly.


Restored houses in Galle

Anouk Fienieg of the International Heritage Activities Centre was assigned to the projects. "These houses had porches oriented towards the street that played an important social role. Now many Muslims live in the area who have closed up the porches for the sake of privacy. Thanks to funding from the Netherlands, the Galle Heritage Foundation was able to convince a number of the home owners to restore the houses to their original state. They received subsidy but also had to bear a share of the costs. Ultimately, the project became very popular. Once a few of the houses had been restored, people could see how lovely they were. Businesses like souvenir shops and lunch rooms in particular benefited from the project. Now a total of 54 homeowners have had their colonial homes restored to their original state and many other homeowners are interested. It is a good example of how heritage activities can affect public opinion."

In addition to homes, Dutch funding was also used to restore large monuments to their former glory, including the Dutch Reformed Church, the ramparts and the Dutch East India Company warehouse. Nearly all projects have now been concluded and the Maritime Museum is scheduled to open in April 2009. Based on the enormous success, cooperation between the Netherlands and Sri Lanka in the area of heritage restoration will probably be continued. The CIE and the Central Cultural Fund of Sri Lanka are organising a meeting to discuss continued cooperation in the summer of 2009.