By Noel Nadesan –
History shows that many ancient cities were abandoned by people due to environmental degradation. It happed in many ancient civilisations. There were several reasons for this. In those times the global population was not so dense. Nor were there strict borders to control the movement of populations. Besides, plenty of land was available mass migration. Now we do not have that luxury any more.
I was surprised to learn that in the 16th century there was only three large cities with a population of hundred thousand people. They were Beijing, Cairo and the Aztec in Mexico. This last mentioned city was destroyed by the Spanish and the New Mexico city has now been built over the old city.
The current European big cities of Paris and London were built in the 17th and 18th centuries. People who had cultivated the common lands in the country areas lost their lands to the nobles and industrial owners, and the landless people migrated to big cities. Urbanisation increased all over the world. If we visit India, South Africa and Brazil you can see the chaotic process. Even in China where some urbanisation is taking place in some orderly fashion the impact of industrialisation is felt heavily.
Even Europeans had gone through the difficult process. The dirt and dust of London streets of 18th century can be seen in the novels of Charles Dickens.
The main task of the city administration is to provide the food and water and remove the waste in that comes out of urbanization. If you are wealthy It can provide you with money for food and water, but sewage and garbage is out of your control. It goes into the hands of city fathers. For instance, India’s richest man, Ambani, too is dependent on the Bombay municipality.
When I went to see the cultural remains of the Mayan peoples in the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico), I thought I was learning something new in my old age.
The Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico was under the sea before two million years ago. Peninsula landscape was made of lime rocks and It was created from coral reef from the Atlantic ocean. These lime rocks came up with sea level changes due to the environment. However, the rains seeped through the ground and created many underground river systems. As a tourist I walked the rivers along a few kilometres. I could see how the water was running into the river and running for several kilo Meters. In those caves I saw the minerals were seeping through the lime rock roof and sediment as spikes. That scenery reminded me of Jaffna. As I was from Jaffna where most of the earth made from limestone which were a part of the coral reef in Palk Strait in geological times. This creates problems for the urbanised population. The Jaffna city does not have any common sewage system. However, every small plot of land has a water well and toilet and they are not far apart. So the water used for daily consumption gets polluted. Lime stone earth where heavy metal and minerals and agricultural chemical can diffuse more faster in the ground water system with global warming
I wish to bring to notice of the public some of my observations.
I witnessed that people were burning plastic bottles polythene papers and old newspapers
Restaurants were serving hot lunch on plastic paper on top of the plates. They do not have to wash those plates.
Though I heard Government banned spitting in public, Lankan transport bus that I travelled Jaffna -Kandy was not following the law. The bus driver was spitting his red betel saliva out of his side window to the road. Though he had acquired the skill in spitting outside, I was worried because I was sitting behind him and the any chances of wind changing its direction was great. The bacteria flying in my direction was a real possibility and it went unchecked throughout the journey.
Speaking about the garbage mountain tragedy in Colombo, the informed source said to me, “When a German company came ready to recycle the garbage in Colombo, they backed away put off by heavy demands for by bribes.”
In conclusion, it is clear that corruption has become a primary source for environmental pollution. Add to this, the ignorance, and the incompetence of the politicians – some of whom in the North are bogged down in fighting each other — then you have a bad problem growing into a worse situation daily.
The collapse of the pile of Meetotamulla muck on the helpless citizens is only the start. Other “Meetotamullas” are waiting to happen. How many tons of muck must fall on the heads of our politicians to make them realise that the situation is becoming intolerable by the day and urgent action is necessary to make Sri Lanka clean again. Steps stop the issue become too big.