25 June, 2017

Garbage Dump Collapse; Wil This End Continuing Political Apathy?

By Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Meethotamulla Garbage Dump Collapse which sadly happened when the nation was celebrating the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, was not just a disaster for the people of the area , but one where the stench was felt far beyond its’ boundaries. For, it was yet another disaster which could have been avoided if the successive governments have seriously given an ear to the anguish and agony of those who have been continuously suffering in these hazardous environs. They say only a sleeping man can be awakened; not one who feigns sleep. Thus, in the context of this garbage dump issue having become a political ‘beggar’s wound’  for a very long time, it is therefore not surprising that no viable long term solution was sought.

Yes! Meethotamulla Garbage mountain collapsed causing many unfortunate deaths including children, destroying a large number of houses and injuring hundreds.  Still many remain  buried under the garbage mountain. As usual during times of these types of national disasters, President instructed the three forces, Police and the Disaster Management Ministry to provide immediate relief to those who were affected due to the tragic incident. In a laudable gesture, people of all walks of life irrespective of racial or religious differences are flocking together to help their brethren in distress. In months ahead, this contentious issue will perhaps be forgotten until another disaster strikes once again to kick start the slow moving government and political machinery to take reactive measures. Therefore, it is imperative that people this time, blow their sirens right in the ear chamber of the political powers that be, to keep them awake and make them take some positive action to bring about a long term solution for the suffering people of this area.

Listening to the Press interview of Nuwan Bopage, Organizer, Movement against the Garbage Dump at Kolonnawa, it is much clear how the politicians and officials have been playing games with people’s lives and turned this issue into a ‘political football’.  Since 2011, they have launched more than 15 agitations and both MR Regime and also the Sirisena-Ranil so-called Yahapalana coalition have only responded with repressive measures to silence the voice of the people instead of listening to their just grievances. He emotionally related  how the Police and Armed forces which then used force against them have now come to look out for bodies inside the rubbish. He accused the corrupt politicians – parliamentarians of the area and both CMC and Kolonnawa Council of using this garbage dump as means of earning (blood stained) money. None of the recent promises given by Ranil W. to bring an acceptable solution have been kept. He accused the politicians in both past and present regimes as having committed ‘mass’ murder and asked that they all be held to account for their inaction. 

It was disgusting that, according to Bopage, CMC has earned around Rs. 200M out of the garbage tender while many politicos have been earning filthy money out of the contracts associated with bringing garbage into this dump and collecting recyclables. No wonder therefore there is virtually no interest at all in solving this stinking issue while the people are compelled to bear the health hazards associated with living at the doorstep of a massive garbage dump. This is not a natural disaster but a man made one and therefore when the garbage mountain fell, along with it fell the confidence people had, in the will of the political hierarchy and bureaucracy to solve this problem.    

In this context, will these politicos take these concerns seriously and take viable action even at this stage? OR Will the responsible politicos accept responsibility for this sad debacle and resign as done by the politicos and officials in other ‘civilized’ countries? Knowing our political gentry, none of this will happen. They will once again sing lullabies and put these issues to rest. Who said that a representative democracy is “a government of the people, by the people, for the people?” It is therefore high-time that this issue be not allowed to be swept under the carpet and demand effective waste management systems are explored and brought into practice not just in Meethotamulla, but in other parts of the country as well.   

We are aware that landfills have led to some of the most heated, acrimonious battles over pollution in the public commons that have ever been seen. While there are a number of reasons for the vehement arguments that often surround landfills, one of the largest is the juxtaposition of both the understood need for landfills and the lack of will to live near one. With the population skyrocketing across the country particularly in the suburbs of the capital city, these landfills will only become more and more of an acute public issue as time goes on. Despite the arguments over landfills in general, there are no arguments over the assertion that there are many things that contribute to the environmental problem of landfills. Those living in the capital city should realize that they are also in small ways responsible for the disaster which happened in Meethotamulla due to the haphazard ways in which they produce and dispose waste.   

The environmental problems caused by landfills are numerous. In addition to threats to groundwater, landfills give off potentially harmful gases, and odours will often permeate the neighbourhoods. Some studies show that birth defects increase in communities surrounding landfills. Landfills are often classified by the type of waste they can accept: Municipal waste, medical waste, special waste, or hazardous waste landfills are four common types. Because even our household waste contains toxic chemicals, it is not significantly safer to live near a municipal or special waste landfill than one that accepts more toxic waste.

The Solution to our Waste Problems: Move Towards Zero Waste

The solution to waste rests in reducing the volume and the toxicity of our garbage. Zero Waste aims for the elimination of, rather than simply the “management” of, waste. “Waste” is something cast off with little to no value – but many items individuals throw away have value to other people, businesses, and communities. For instance, organic “waste” is the feedstock of a commercial composting operation, which turns food, leaves, brush, and manure into compost to feed the soil at farms and residential and business landscaping projects. 

Zero Waste is not any single technology, program, or policy. Zero Waste is a goal, a process, and a vision that shifts how we think about and use resources: it is a whole-system approach that targets a major change in the way materials flow through our economy. It is the opposite of an end-of-pipe solution. Instead, Zero Waste is a bold approach to waste management that looks at both the both the front end (production and design) and the back end (reuse and reprocessing) of material flow, and solutions to connect the two. Zero Waste centers around reducing needless consumption, minimizing waste, maximizing recycling, and incentivizing the manufacturing of products that can be intentionally reused, repaired, or recycled back into the marketplace. 

Waste disposal experts have provided us many pointers in this regard. Practically, common Zero Waste models include many of the following initiatives:

  • Devote resources on the state level to recycling & reuse programs, and increasing recycling incentives for companies and consumers alike. 
  • Ensure that recycling facilities are widely available and mandate recycling programs where possible (especially for institutions, businesses, etc.)
  • Create a market for recycled materials. Jobs are created for sorting materials and creating goods to re-enter the economy.
  • Require companies to produce products with minimum packaging, and phase out toxic ingredients in favour of safer alternatives.
  • Mandate manufacturer take-back provisions, to reuse components in new products.  Companies should be responsible for their waste.
  • Reduce the number of landfills and incinerators, restrict expansions, and strengthen the environmental review, compliance and ongoing monitoring at these facilities.  Strict, well- funded enforcement is absolutely necessary.
  • Dissolve corporate waste industry, eliminating the economic incentives for disposing of waste in an environmentally destructive way. 
  • Put in place safety provisions for workers at solid waste management facilities.
  • Make the waste regulations more citizen friendly and shift the burden of proof to companies. 
  • Provide increased citizen participation in solid waste management permitting and policy.
  • Encourage people to recycle and give effective tips in how to reduce and dispose waste 
  • Include these imperatives in school curricula to enable young people to get involved in good habits and practices in disposing waste and saving the environment.

Everyone wants to live and visit places that are clean, fresh and healthy. A city with poor sanitation, smelly and with waste matter all over the place do not attract good people, investors and tourists. Such cities tend to have poor living standards. Cities that do not invest in recycling and proper waste control miss out on revenue from recycling. They also miss out on job opportunities that come from recycling, composting and businesses that work with them. Thus, there is also economic sense too apart from the oft-quoted ‘health’ rationale for the government to invest and implement a viable waste management system. Apart from that there are three slogans to address this issue; reduce, reuse and recycle. In this way garbage pollution issue could be solved with simply community efforts.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    12

    Yahapalanaya’s aim is to make us the next Hindia. That should make some natives very happy !

    This is a good start

    Now all we need to do is to teach the people to cr.p on the streets.

    Once we make the bridge, Hindians coming to Sri Lanka will feel right at home !

    • 2
      2

      maalumiris

      “Yahapalanaya’s aim is to make us the next Hindia. That should make some natives very happy !”

      Original descendants of Natives have always been happy to let kallathonies in and share the island’s resources. Only the descendants of recent Kallathonies seem unhappy, sad, mad, bad and greedy.

      “Now all we need to do is to teach the people to cr.p on the streets.”

      No need, they are already trained, and number 90,000 according to latest census of 2011.

      Whether their c**p is good or bad, definitely their official garbage/c**p kill innocent people, as we have witnessed since 5th April 1971.

      It appears C**p on the street is harmless compared to those who carry it inside their skull, you are rest assured there too many of them in this island.

      “Now all we need to do is to teach the people to cr.p on the streets. Once we make the bridge, Hindians coming to Sri Lanka will feel right at home !”

      What if they don’t like your low grade one? Are you going to import it from New Delhi to make them happy?

      By the way most of them defacade in the fields where parrippu is cultivated and exported to this island.

      Watch this clip:

      The surprising truth of open defecation in India
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V35Vw29tay0

      maalumiris

      Here is a good link to teach you how to fix problems in this island, cleansing garbage, including garbage that kill people, garbage that rule us, garbage that sit behind desks and refuse to serve us, the human garbage that kills and cannot be punished because it is rapped around in uniform or patriotism, ……….. crooks that cannot be charged because this sort of garbage is connected to other powerful garbage, ….. :

      Why is India so filthy? | The Ugly Indian |
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf1VA5jqmRo

      After watching this, your brain will not be the same | Lara Boyd | TEDxVancouver

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHBMFCzznE

      maalumiris

      Give your brain a try.

      • 2
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        Native

        Clearly, you are as unfamiliar with India as you are with Sri Lanka

        • 2
          2

          maalumiris

          “Clearly, you are as unfamiliar with India as you are with Sri Lank “

          I take it that you refuse to educate me on matters of importance say such as c**p.

  • 9
    4

    This is the tip of a very large iceberg of polluting garbage dumps all over the country.
    We have had one on our doorstep for better than a decade and half with NO ACTION despite being represented by a Senior Member of Cabinet, Sarath Amunugama, to whom representations have been made more times than I care to remember by more people than I can count!
    Meethotamulla is the classic example of “out of sight, out of mind” Out of sight that is of the upper class residents of a city whose solution to every problem is to dump it on some poor, less powerful part of the population.
    Check where Kandy’s dump is located: on the Mahaveli adjacent to the town’s primary supply of drinking water!
    How is Kandy’s garbage “contained?” By compressing it with heavy equipment.
    Does that garbage contain such extremely toxic elements as CFL bulbs? It does!
    Ah, but then it is more important to contemplate tunnels under the Lake or bridges over it to maintain peace and tranquility in the Diyawadanae Nilame’s residence than all of the even broader pollution problems of air and drinking water supply which are killing THOUSANDS of (poor) Sri Lankans.
    Why aren’t Gotabhaya Rajapaks and his brother being investigated for their responsibility for this state of affairs stemming DIRECTLY from the “gentricification” of communities in the name of “beautification?”
    OR ARE ALL OF THESE PARASITES BUDDIES UNDER THE TABLE?

    • 2
      1

      Emil

      I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bring up the name “Rajapakse” (even though the garbage dump has been in existence for much longer)

      Thank you for not making me wait too long !

      • 2
        1

        maalumiris

        “Thank you for not making me wait too long !”

        It is simple and obvious there exist fan clubs that are awaiting for any news that give them reason to remember and celebrate their former and present ideal despots. Fans are usually guided by their loyalty and not by rationality.

        We do have fan clubs for Hitler, Saddam, Mussolini, Stalin, ……… RW, VP though they dead and gone for many years. Why not news on Rajapaksa if it makes his fans happy.

        If Emil has given reason for you to celebrate you should be grateful to him.

  • 10
    4

    UNP was rule by Colombo Municipality since 1956, over 65 years that mismanage by UNP administration end of lost 20 life of Sri lanakn time being ?

    You can see how is that UNP is unable Rule of Colombo Municipality by mismanage of Garbage collection end of the Man-made tragedy ?

    How is that such Political Party Run the Whole country for better future ?

    The UNP rules are not that worried about lost life of 20 people under Ranil W…?

    The country leaders are on enjoying toured all over the world ?

    Even Ranil W.. is not bother to return to country such Man-made disasters to address urgent need his presences is the Man who in-charge in country day to day management?

    Where is the Ranil W.. leader of UNP still rooming around the world? Rescue operation standstill, unfounded death bodies under garbage mountains.? Action are in slow motions.?

    Is that current UNP is Capable rebuild Sri lanka any more ?

    That is a lessons we have to learn from current Man-Made disasters situation mishandle by UNP leadership ?

    • 1
      1

      The last Mayor of Colombo who should be held accountable for this man made tragedy has been appointed HC to Malaysia . If you are close to the right people you can literally get away with murder .

  • 4
    1

    Lukman Harees:-

    Bring Back the “Bothal, Paperr, Powderr Tin” Man.

    Whatever happened to that Environmentally Friendly, Icon of our Childhood?

    Something for the Government to encourage, to help the Unemployed !

  • 5
    2

    Emil van der Poorten

    “Why aren’t Gotabhaya Rajapaks and his brother being investigated for their responsibility for this state of affairs stemming DIRECTLY from the “gentricification” of communities in the name of “beautification?” OR ARE ALL OF THESE PARASITES BUDDIES UNDER THE TABLE?”

    Government is there to focus attention mainly to national issues. Rajapakse regime tackled the most critical problem the country faced and brought peace to Sri Lanka. Managing garbage is the responsibility of Municipal Council. From the time of its inception in 1956, UNP ran Colombo Municipality. The UNP councilors, instead of solving the problem dragged on probably because they got some benefits. Having noticed inaction in the part of Municipality to tackle the problem, Gotabhaya had come out with a plan to solve the problem after consulting experts in this field and evaluating ‘Best Practices’ in other countries. Cabinet had approved the project costing 14 billion Rupees on 2014 August 14. The budget in 2014 November had allocated 10 billion Rupees for 2015-2017. Unfortunately the government changed and along with other development projects which were in the pipeline, this project was also stalled and probably money was used to buy luxury cars for Ministers.

    If you are interested in getting more information about this project go to Nalaka Godahewa’s Face Book page.

    If our Sinhala idiots did not vote to ‘Hansaya’, 25 lives could have been saved. You are another guy like Raanil and MY3 who blame Rajapakse regime even for getting constipation!

    • 2
      3

      Eagle Eye (a misnomer if ever there was one!):
      Who the hell organized and drove the “gentrification” of Colombo so that their overweight middle class friends could have scenic walks to lose the excess of weight they carried?
      This is not a matter of particular politicians at particular times: Gotabhaya BOASTED of his dramatic cleaning-up of Colombo and employed a prominent architectural firm to “mastermind” the effort. Isn’t there any consequence for monstrosities of this kind.
      As for Nalaka Godahewa and his ilk: they are proven lackeys of the previous regime and should already have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law for the things they did under the protection of that regime. (Securities and Exchange Commission anyone?!)

      WHY WERE THEY NOT?

      Simply put, Unuth Horu, Munuth Horu!

      This is not about partisan politics as my initial comment will clearly indicate and try to “spin” it as such is nothing short of obscene.

      • 1
        0

        Emil van der Poorten

        “Eagle Eye (a misnomer if ever there was one!):”

        Eagle Eye suffers from Dissociative identity disorder (DID). Therefore please be kind to him.

        His other known identities are SL Citizen, Dr Clean, …. maybe he is the adopted father of Jonny Boy.

    • 2
      1

      Transferring hazardous garbage dumping to a fresh area is not a viable solution, and any responsible government cannot spread or expose this to fresh people.

      In 2012 -2013 there was a proposal towards a permanent solution, composting and combustion for electricity generation off garbage and litter, that have numerous advantages including environmental, employment, ash recovery etc

      Autocrats simply dumped it for the reasons they only can explain!

  • 3
    0

    Meethotamulla is sign of things to come. Politicians ignoring issues and profiting out until such time they explode and kill.
    However, politicians will continue passing the blame. For example, should we not find the collapsed bit is garbage collected during the Rajapaksa regime, where as yahapalana garbage resides on the other side of the pile, as a theory? On the other hand why should UNP MC solve a problem, if the agitators are “Sahodarayas” who would take credit for their campaign?

  • 6
    1

    I was moved by Mr. Nuwan Bopage’s interview. As he quite rightly said, “don’t come with water bottles and lunch packets” that is not what they need – but a permanent solution. Any amount of money given as compensation will not compromise the loss of their loved ones.

    Also, Had Mr Gotabhaya Rajapakse been in power, this wouldn’t have taken place. He got rid of the Bloemendhal piles very boldly. They had alternatives proposed for waste disposal, but did not materialise since government changed.

    whatever is said and done about Gotabhaya, hats off to him for beautifying at least part of Colombo where all and sundry ( irrespective of their class, creed and status) enjoy its benefits.

    Lets pressurize specific sectors, such as environmental authority / Ministry of Health etc, to sort out their priorities, reminding their immediate responsibility to living Human beings. It is their duty/responsibility to allocate funds/formulate strategies to eliminate health/environmental hazards, Its a burning issue swept under the carpet cause no significant public roar was heard.

    Therefore, all in power including the business entities and activists of many a human rights organisation should join hands in taking immediate action for a permanent solution – not for compensation and mere talks.

  • 3
    1

    Every process requires organization. The humbugs in the parliament lacks all the skills including the skill to organize but only to cheat public of their money and pretend as Masters.( of the mental hospital.) If cannot perform please get out.

  • 3
    0

    Country to develop, we need people with high IQ, high innovative skills. politicos we have are garbage. Thats why we see they are buying benz, when a corolla will do. egos . being majority buddhist country. there is no buddhism in sri lanka. but gnansaraism type of cheap mentality. this garbage will be fogotton. only poor have been affected.

  • 2
    0

    MARIKKAR RESIGN!

    MARIKKAR RESIGN!

    MARIKKAR RESIGN!

    Don’t blame Rajapakse Regime. We sent Rajapakse Regime home and brought this government to do things right. Marikkar promised to remove the garbage dump but he did not fulfill his promise. So, he should take the responsibility for the 25 deaths and resign. That is what decent politicians do. I bet Marikkar will not resign and our stupid voters will vote for him again.

  • 1
    0

    In 1995 the then minister of urban development proposed to set up a sanitary landfill at Meepe. Then environmental NGOs instigated those illicit settlers in the proposed land to oppose this move. World bank was willing to fund the entire project and even tenders were called and the construction given to a chinese firm for US$ 800 million. However, in 1999 this project was abandoned owing to unsubstantiated claims that ground water will get polluted and people like Susil Premajayanth and Dinesh Gunawardane vehemently objected to this project. Ironically it was Dinesh’s brother Indika Gunawardane who first mooted this idea. Had this project gone ahead we would not have such a disaster at Meethotamulla. This landfill was enough to dispose waste not only from Colombo but also all those municipalities from Negombo to Panadura. What this shows is the lack of commitment from the highest in the land who at that time was Chandrika. Just like the way she postponed building the Norochchalai power plant due to opposition from a Bishop she took the easy way out meekly throwing away this worthwhile project. Sri Lanka needs leaders who have a backbone and leadership qualities who have the courage to take decisions thinking about the whole country and not to please a few NGOs and regional politicians

  • 2
    0

    I saw in some places they try to separate the recyclable and decayable. You can take the the stuff which can decay to the cultivation land and cover it with soil . the decay rate is faster in Sri Lankan soils. And/or add microbes which help faster decay. They used to use green leaves and dry leaves as manure.

  • 0
    1

    People, please have patience. Look at the ethnicity of victims. Why overreact?

  • 1
    0

    Garbage Dump Collapse; Wil This End Continuing Political Apathy? MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Go to Marikkar for solution.

  • 2
    3

    The SIN-HELL-ese make fun of Indians for shitting in the streets but who is the laughingstock now? Sinhella lanka is one big steaming pile of garbage dump (and mass graves). Singapore wanted to be the next Ceylon and now Sinhala Lanka wants to be the next Singapore. Everything went down the drain when the British handed over the power to a people incapable of running a civilised society.

    • 0
      0

      You are so right. All Tamil councillors, MPs and other politicians are incorruptible upholders of the law. There is not a thief amongst any of them. The Sinhalese should have given the running of the country to the minorities. They should have appointed a tea plucker as PM and a Kanganiamma as President. All ministries should have been run by Jaffna Tamils. What a paradise that would have been.

      • 0
        0

        Why not? Tamils have been campaigning for a truly secular liberal democratic decentralised state where civil liberties would be respected and meritocracy would be rewarded. The Sinhalese turned the envy of Asia into its torture chamber, mass grave and killing field. For all its faults, the LTTE ran a progressive society where women were empowered and rape was punishable by death whereas in Sinhala Lanka rape is used as a weapon of war by predators who run child sex rings in Haiti and rape camps in the occupied Tamil territory. Sinhala Lanka is an illiberal failed state much like an Islamic theocracy where saffron-clad child raping Buddhist Taliban preach hate against minorities, where journalists and human rights activists are assassinated, where dissent is silenced by death squads, where war criminals are not only let to walk free but are promoted and praised, where authoritarians running a family dynasty are elected by the majority.
        May Buddha save Lanka from human-lion hybrids!

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