18 August, 2017

The Political Garbage That Is…..

By Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

The Meethotamulla tragedy has brought back the politics of garbage to every screen, newspaper and radio. Street protests are happening around every garbage dump. Modern day popular communication technologies have taken over and they broadcast/stream live coverage of the tragedy with first hand information and drama. There is ample blame being apportioned on the current Government and regretfully, most of the current politicians including those who oppose Government policies have been the elite that governed during the last three decades when garbage was piling up all over Sri Lanka. Like everything else in our beautiful land, the tragedy of 32 deaths has become the propelling slogan for the ‘focusless’ or visionless Opposition. Their dying Central Bank scandal theme is being replaced by the “kunukanda”.  It is indeed a joke that Udaya Gammanpila who is chastising his former partner in crime Minister Champika Ranawake for the environmental disaster, when he himself held the position of Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority. Dinesh Gunawardena, one of the sons of Philip Gunawardena, the Lion of Boralugoda, castigates the Government for not resolving the garbage issue when his own brother was the Mayor of Colombo in 2002. The hypocrisy of the political bankruptcy of current day politicians needs no further evidence. It is sensational slogans and not the country’s progress that matter to these failing politicians. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is probably still on Avurudu mood as we have not seen them on the streets yet. It may be that the Meethotamulla victims are just a few hundred families and don’t mean much as a vote base for them, but for the Joint Opposition, its a slogan generating opportunity.

Garbage could be turned in to a much more productive commodity than our political hypocrites. Garbage could be worth its weight in gold for the environment if recycled but it has been prevented due to the corruption of the political mafia that controls it. This waste could also take us towards a green economy that will save our environment and agriculture, helping us to produce the much sought after organic foods. The tug of war to apportion blame for refusing the many offers of support from various countries to manage and recycle the waste has become the breaking news in media. We also heard of huge corruption in recent media reports that Meethotamulla had XXX number of backhoes in operation 24 hours a day at the rate of Rs.8000/hour. That’s a cool Rs. 70,080,000 per backhoe per year. The cost of a brand new backhoe is probably in the region of $ 85,000 or Rs. 12,750,000. That means Meethotamulla could buy at least 5 Backhoes for the price paid to hire one during a year. This again shows how dirty and corrupt our politicians could become even in managing dirt. The world’s best Finance Minister and the Municipal Council should start counting the figures before money is being spent on hiring backhoes through their party henchmen. No wonder, the few politicians who tried to visit Meethotamulla were booed at, and fortunately not thrown to the garbage dump.

President Sirisena, once again dismisses everything his Government has committed. Earlier, it was announced that each damaged house could claim up to 2.5 Million and each of the dead persons would be compensated with a hundred thousand along with funeral expenses. Now he retracts that decision, saying there was no such decision by the Government. Is there any minister or administrative officer who can commit to spend such a large amount of state funds without Cabinet or Parliamentary approval? Isn’t it hypocritical for the President to sit as the Head of the Cabinet, sign off on the decision, return on Media and say no such decision was made? Is he playing a game of cheap politics?

Garbage is an insurmountable problem in every nation across the world. The smoky mountain in Manila, Philippines or the Favela of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil are good examples of the good, bad and the ugly of garbage and slum dwelling. While millions survive on garbage, millions die too due to the sanitary hell they live in. The garbage dumps in many developing or less developed countries have thousands self-employed in recycling waste. Little children swarm on the dirt carrying trucks to pick up plastic, iron, paper and whatever is recyclable. They even consume discarded scraps of food they could find. While this informal industry cleans up most of the waste, unfortunately, the hard to decay plastic (like sirisiri bags) are left behind and will remain in its present form for many years.

The Three R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, all help to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away. They conserve natural resources, landfill space, and energy. The concept is nothing new to rural Sri Lanka. In the absence of garbage collection by local authorities in remote areas, it is often dumped in a pit at the back of the house. In time, these rural folk, who are mainly engaged in agriculture, have realized the potential of producing their own manure.  Of course, when we progress, machines take over clearing of waste, and space has become the biggest problem for dumping waste. With the ever-growing population, there is very little space to dump all the garbage we produce.

Kolomba Kunu Apata Epa!

The city of Colombo has a population of approximately five hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. There is a daily floating population of approximately another 500,000 and Colombo collects waste of 1.1 million people daily. If you take the district of Colombo, the figure is 3 Million people. The estimated waste collected is 800 metric tons. Do we have enough dumping space in Colombo for all the waste that is generated? From where does the floating population come? Who contributes to half the waste generated in Colombo? They are the migrant workers from the suburbs who daily commute to Colombo. They are the ones who are now challenge the movement of waste from Colombo to the suburbs.

At least 80% of the garbage that gets collected in the dumps could be productively recycled. They could create high value through the production of bio gas that could be used for motor vehicles and cooking, produce all the fertilizers locally without importing the kidney failure causing chemical fertilizers, help produce organic food which is internationally sought after and help increase the bio diversity of the country. This could be a viable environmentally friendly industry for people who are trying to save the Environment by ousting humans from their original and rightful homes.

The global recycling industry, which has a target of recycling 70% of waste, is a 410 billion US Dollar business. This might trigger some thinking around the entrepreneurial brains to cash in on the garbage. Meethotamulla and all other garbage dumps in the country could be turned to gold by using modern recycling concepts. Further, clean energy fetches a higher price in most countries, and Sri Lanka should follow the same.

Maldives forces its tourists to take back their non-recyclable waste back with them to their home countries. It is a welcome sight to see airlines handing over refuse bags to its passengers and the waste is carried back free of charge. Colombo too may have to start a similar project to the large migrant population that visits the city daily. If the residents follow the 3R concept, we may be able to address this garbage menace more effectively.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    In the meantime, The proposed Port City will be producing so much more Garbage!

    Where will it be dumped? Colombo does not need more Overdevelopment; just more Awareness of the Lack of Planning for the Future Need for better Infrastructure

  • 2
    0

    The best solution is to dump all the garbage at Diyawanna along with the 225 idiots who waste our resources

  • 2
    0

    The world would be a better place without the garbage that sits at Diyawanna

  • 1
    0

    The tragedy of Meethotamulla is not a natural disaster. Its plain and simple murder by the corrupt politicians. As hilmi has clearly pointed out, its is the hundreds of millions that is stolen from the public through corrupt contracts of the politicians. The FCID will have to be brought in and these criminals will have to be made to pay compensation to the dead and the physical damage

  • 3
    3

    For once, this racist has not written about the 12 Muslims that were affected by the disaster

    • 4
      3

      Mr Hilmy. The Muslims are taking care of only the Muslims who are affected. The mosque in Kollonawa is collecting millions in the name of these people and they are only helping the few Muslims affected by this. Who is playing out all the rest of the money

      • 5
        4

        That is not true. I am a Muslim volunteer in the field and we we have been providing food to all communities including some from the forces who are doing an excellent job. Please dont try to bring racism to this tragedy

      • 4
        3

        Surendra,

        When donating to charities in Sri Lanka be careful. Muslims in SL, register charities in SL in nice Sinhalese names and claim to help children.

        Yes they help children. No question about it. But they help Muslim children attend Private schools and higher education abroad. For every 100 muslim children they help, they may even help the odd Sinhalese child, just to show that their charity is “diversified”.

        Don’t get caught to that ruse.

        • 3
          0

          Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamal Perera

          “When donating to charities in Sri Lanka be careful. Muslims in SL, register charities in SL in nice Sinhalese names and claim to help children.”

          What could a person who regularly pays tax to the state do to protect the state’s revenue as both the state and the government are mostly run by people with Sinhala names and seem to have total control over finances of various ministries, treasury, departments, government tenders, defense procurement, ……… ?

        • 0
          1

          Mini maruwa commenting about their own kind, is it right Rtd. Lt. Reginald?

    • 0
      1

      Shan Perera, your comments shows it is from a third rate stinking racist.

  • 4
    0

    If the poor who live off the garbage dumps are denied their source of income, they should be provided employment opportunities through the mechanism the author is talking about. Most of these people live next to these dumps because they life off the dumps.

  • 2
    1

    Didn’t Ranil the great leader promise a solution for this in 6 months back in 2015?

    Why didn’t the author mention that ? Does green blood flow in his veins?

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2
    0

    Well said Hilmy Ahamed. The ungrateful Maithripala Sirisena continues to undermine the UNP by contradicting everything that is decided by the cabinet and approved. Sirisena is playing a dirty game of politics and the day Ranil stands up to challenge this cowardly act is the day this country will progress. Ranil is probably the only leader who thinks of the long term stability of the country.Everyone else is looking at cheap short term popularity. Its time the masses rallied round Ranil for the next three years to get our country out of the debt noose

  • 1
    0

    true susantha
    the problem is that the sirisena -ranil combination is all talk and no do the country will benefit only when the do starts but who knows when it will be

    • 0
      0

      True, there is no “DO” That is he tragedy of this government. They don’t know how to rule and govern but waiting for something to happen rather than make it happen. Useless arguing. Must allow those who can, to do what they can till next election to which we are bound

      • 0
        0

        Yes, bring back the Butcher of Tamils and Muslims

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