By Mohamed SR. Nisthar –
Why is Puttalam treated differently? This is the fairly reasonable question every inhabitant of the Puttalam constituency, one of the six in the North-Western Electoral district, has on their mind. Answers to this simple question, however, that are coming from the President, the Prime minister, the Minister for Western Development and Mega Polis and the leaders of the so-called Muslim (Halal) parties (SLMC and ACMC) despite their apparent Haraam activities, appalling.
Puttalam area has been engulfed by man made ecologically dangerous, environmentally disasters, ethically wrong and legally challengeable projects, a cement factory in the south of the extended town, a coal power plant in the west, which was once considered as the fertile – cash crop area of the region. In the north there is the intended garbage dump or the sugar coated expression of sanitary solid waste management project. The chosen site, is very close to residential areas, lagoon fishing, fresh water prawn rearing, saltern, coconut estates and wildlife sanctuary, leaving only the West side for any more nasty projects, in the future which would be agitated by any prudent citizen of the country.
There is no point in revisiting the false promises given to the people of the area for their concerns, when the cement factory was built at pallavi in the midst of cocoanut plantation and the coal power plant was built at, Nurochchoolai, which was a promising cash crop belt, however, however, the Garbage dumping project of Arruwakkadu/Serakkuli attracts severe criticism as several EIA ( Environmental Impact Assessment ) reports confirm that the chosen site is not suitable at all.
This project was initiated by the Rajapaksa government and it was then given up at the request of former deputy minister of livestock and incumbent Chairman of Puttalam UC, Mr. Baiz. So what? The project is being resumed and it will start its activity on 15th March 2019, the Mega Polis Minister Cambika Ranawaka has confirmed. The same Minister was behind the scene in building the notorious coal power plant at Nurochcholai, exposing the population, namely, young children and pregnant women to multiple medical conditions and mysterious symptoms of yet to be pathologically confirmed new diseases. Still, it seems that the Minister is not satisfied. For him it is about winning next parliamentary seat or about his fantasy for contesting in the next Presidential Election for which he wants a carbonless, e-waste free and odourless clean Colombo. At the expense of our very right to simply have a clean Puttalam.
The garbage issue was brought to the attention of the President in recent days and he had the following to say: “We cannot dump our garbage at sea, enabling the international community to make a big hoo-hah out of it”. Granted, but the Garbage I create at home cannot not be thrown at my neighbour’s house. And it seems that the environmentally friendly President does not care the local communities, who elected him as president, and their hoo-hah against this unwise and unwelcome project.
Minister Ranawaka quoted “people who oppose the Puttalam garbage project are selfish and disrespect the lives lost at the collapse of the “Meetotamulla garbage” mountain in the capital. You are totally wrong Minister. We are not bemused by the disaster caused by mismanagement by the municipality and or Ministry of Mega Polis nor any management at all, but we try our best to stop you from causing 240, 000 slow deaths and more in perpetuity and turning the already dry zone into a death zone. Are you not remorseful in anticipation for the lives yet to be lost, before it is too late for you to share grief with us as you expect from us towards the victims of the “Meetottamulla”
The Minister further said “it is the local politicians and clergies (Buddhists, Muslims, Saivas and Christians), who try to stop this national project.” The local politicians, who like you to serve your constituency, are mandated by the local people to seek right solutions for their grievances and the clergies are the ones, who live with these issues and thoroughly understand the peoples’ concerns. Don’t you like them carrying out their duty, which is expected by their people?
There are laws in place to deal with these things. A piece of legislation, our Municipal Council and Urban Council Ordinance stop you passing the bug to another local government jurisdiction. But you do regardless, this is an outright violation of law. Also the very constitution, that you fought for and were prepared to die for, including any blatant breaches by the former President and his acolytes during the 52 days political drama in 2018, which made entire world laugh at us. And you were steadfast for upholding an unequivocally enshrined constitutional arrangement. As such it is our constitutionally confirmed fundamental right to have an unpolluted environment for the current and future generations, pure water, clean air and most importantly the inalienable right not to be treated differently or less favourably than others. Now tell us Minister why the people of Puttalam should be treated less favourably than any other part of the country.
The Earth Summit in 2000 in Rio passed a resolution adopting the “Polluter Pays” Principle of which Sri Lanka is one of the signatories. It is not the people of Puttalam area, but people of the capital, its business entities, hospitals, government departments that should bear the unpleasant consequence of their behaviours in creating uncontrollable garbage in Colombo under polluter pays principle.
I expected the Minister to come up with plausible arguments for his resolved position of sending garbage created in Colombo to other places. Unfortunately his reasons for that were that: there are no suitable places in Colombo or around the capital. Even it were accepted for the sake an argument, then why Puttalam, why not Pollanaruwa, Hambanthotta or Kilinochchi or even Nuwarallia? The Minister’s answer in replication was that there are utilised and then abandoned limestone quarries only in Puttalam. Is it? We can take the Minister on a tour up and down the country to other quarries for him to make a proper choice.
It is a mystery that the Minister is not aware of the deforested limestone quarries are to be filled back (certainly not with garbage) and reforested according to the agreement signed between other government authorities and the cement corporation, a government entity at the beginning, which then became a private one known as Holcim , and now operating as Insee.
The President, the Prime minister, Minister Cambika Ranawaka, leaders of minority parties, local NGOs, who were busy making big headlines and hot topics for their concerns for the wildlife sanctuary at “Willpattu”, but have no iota of empathy and sympathy to the same Willpattu wildlife, inhabitants of the area, flora and fauna of the region.
The Government, its Ministers do not mind the factual importance of the issue, breaking the law of the country, existing agreements, not adhering the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people, and international convention etc.
The people of Puttalam may be naïve, but not “Buruwas”(donkeys ). They are not rebellious, but are completely innocent lot, believing that there will be the 11th hour God’s intervention to stop this disgusting garbage project. But it cannot be a good reasons for the Minister to suppress our fundamental right. So the big question now is will it be the countdown for the Minister to go against the will of our people on 15th March 2019 or is it the God’s intervention making us to initiate court proceedings to establish the people’s right?