By Mass L. Usuf –April 18, 2017
For the Sinhalese and Tamils, it was their New Year day. A day of joy and celebration. While around the country pots were overflowing with boiling milk ushering in the New Year, in Meethotamulla the saga was somewhat different. Many of people living there were literally buried under the decomposed, rotten and toxic garbage mountain that broke loose. It was unbearable to hear the heart-rending wail of the bereaved family members some of those who had lost their little children.
According to the Central Environment Authority about 7,500 tonnes of waste is produced in the country every day. Residents say that nearly 1,000 tonnes of garbage is added daily each day at Meethotamulla. The height of the garbage dump has now reached more than 300 meters. These people did not go to where the garbage was. The garbage was brought to where these people were living. A dereliction of the government’s duty and a gross violation of the basic constitutional rights of the people affected.
These people have been living here for several decades in inhuman conditions breathing in foul odour every day. The feeling is inexplicable. It stinks. They have been in this unimaginable and horrendous state all these years. Most of them have developed various medical complications. Where are the human rights activists? Where are the Politicians? Where are the environmentalists? Someone quipped, “The
environmentalists are more concerned about fauna and flora than human beings”. The planned alternative landfill site at Aruwakkalu, North of Puttalam, about 170 kilometres away from Colombo did not take off the ground because they were unhappy. They said that the site is within the one mile buffer zone of the Wilpattu National Park.
Mr. President, you are also the Minister of Environmental Affairs. Around the second half of 2015, you spoke about having a National Strategy for environmental conservation and identified areas like deforestation, environmental damage, environmental degradation, natural resource damage and soil erosion. What you seem to have failed in doing is to identify the priorities in your list in the National Strategy? The garbage dump is not an issue that came up after you assumed power. It was very much there while you were with the previous government. Why did you not accelerate the implementation of your plan?
Way back in 2013 during the Rajapaksa regime some houses were damaged when the dump collapsed. Former MP Duminda Silva held a discussion at the Kolonnawa Municipal Council on issues arising from the garbage dump at Meethotamulla and promised to provide a solution to the problem within a month. He never did that.