According to wikipedia, the name “Puttalam” may be a modification of the Tamil word Uppuththalam: Uppu means salt, and Thalam means salt production zone. There are salt plains both north and south of the town. The northern plains are right next to an unusual sight in Sri Lanka: 25 wind turbines, run by an Indian firm.
Salt production is a good money earner according to a local I spoke to. However, he also added that most of the plains were all owned by a handful of businessmen, many of whom got their hands on the land in shifty ways, taking advantage of the confusion created by the civil war.
Workers rake the salt from a plain into small mounds.
The salt is then stored in wooden shelters. This particular one was falling apart.
Both men and women work the plains, usually in the morning and late afternoon. However, they occasionally will work till the late morning by which time temperatures are at the highest.
There is quite a lot of recently-built housing around the salt plains, mostly unpainted cement-brick houses.