Puttalam's salt plains

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.

 Salt plains, Puttalam

Workers rake the salt from a plain into small mounds.

Salt plains, Puttalam

The salt is then stored in wooden shelters. This particular one was falling apart.

salt plains

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. 

Housing near the salt plains, Puttalam

There is quite a lot of recently-built housing around the salt plains, mostly unpainted cement-brick houses.  

Lake Shore Street, Puttalam

View of the jetty from the lighthouse, Puttalam

The view of the jetty from atop Puttalam’s abandoned lighthouse.

Picturesque Lake Shore Street runs along Puttalam’s lagoon. It’s a long, narrow and quiet street, with very little traffic. It runs from near the main round-about in town all the way down one of Sri Lanka’s (only?) wind farms.

I went for a few strolls here during my stay, meeting some very friendly, talkative and opinionated locals. Despite many Sri Lankan’s being able to speak basic English, conversations rarely go beyond the ‘your name?’, 'what country?’ and 'what do you think about Sri Lanka?’ questions; the latter is practically rhetorical, asked by locals eager to hear some positive feedback on their country, may it be sincere or not. However, when off the tourist trail, Sri Lankan’s seem much more willing to speak about their government and the hardships they face on a daily basis. 

fish nets

Fishermen check their nets for holes before heading out for the evening.


The lagoon is saline or brackish depending on places. Locals don’t swim or wash in it, although it is used for fishing.


This was taken inside a small library right on the shore of the lagoon. There were a few English books, mostly by L. Ron Hubbard. Just what Sri Lanka needs: another religion.

Jungle gym by the lagoon - Puttalam

Fishermen row out, pictured through the frame of a jungle gym.


There are a couple of Mosques along Lake Shore street. There is a large Muslim community in Puttalam, quite a few of whom came from Mannar during the war.


Looking west across the lagoon from Puttalam, one can see Kalpitiya, a 20km strip of beach land (actually 14 islands) that runs parallel to the coast. 


These colourfully-painted doors along the lagoon’s shore are used as store rooms for fishing equipment.

On the banks of the lagoon, Puttalam

Two boys sit under the umbrage of trees and watch two fishermen cast their net in the lagoon.