By Lukman Harees –April 17, 2017
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.