Over 1200 tons of waste is dumped here every single day by some 250 lorries. The Meethotamulla dump site is already 23 acres in extent, nineteen of which is already overwhelmed with garbage. Nearly 5,000 households are directly affected by the Meethotamulla dump site.
In this backdrop the residents of Meethotamulla staged a sathyagraha on December 27 demanding a solution to the expansion of Meethotamulla dump site by three acres. The dump site is to be extended over a period of two and a half years, until the Metro Colombo Waste Management Project is completed. Under this project waste will be transported to Aruwakkalu via train. If all goes according to plan 180 families will be relocated to make way for an expansion of three acres. Approximately 200 families living around the site will be relocated to facilitate the construction of a waste transfer station at Meethotamulla.
Legalized waste dumping at Meethotamulla started in 2009 under the direction of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) following the closure of the Bloemendhal dump site, said People’s Movement Against Meetotamulla Garbage Mound, Convener, Keerthirathna Perera. He explained that the mound has grown 300 feet since 2009.
Waste dumping at the site started in 1991 in order to infill the wetland in order to make way for a housing complex, informed Perera. “This is where our ancestral homes were. We moved here in 1980. We did not come and settle near a garbage dump. The dump gradually grew and it found us.”
He rebukes the recently remanded Kolonnawa Urban Council Chairman Ravindra Udaya Shantha for politicising the issue. “He claims that we are the puppets of the Frontline Socialist Party. The truth is that all residents have their own political ideologies, but we have all come together to solve a common issue. We don’t mind if the garbage is left to decay. We just don’t want the dump to be expanded,” said Perera. “But the government doesn’t include us in any of the discussions.”
Perera informed that they have evidence that implicate the Kolonnawa Urban Council Chairman in a racket that leaves him with a cut of Rs 4,000 from every truckload of waste dumped at the site. “This is why they are reluctant to solve this issue.” Perera also reiterated that there is a threat to his life and the lives of the other members of his organization, for their attempt to expose such corruption.
He further informed that the trucks are issued receipts of Rs 8,000 and that the receipts bear no seal of an accountant. “There is no indication where this money ends up in.” Perera informed that the Peliyagoda fish market waste also ends up in Meethotamulla, a site allocated for Colombo waste. “They bring the container and switch the engine to a Kolonnawa Urban Council Engine near Meethotamulla.”
“Most of the waste that winds up at Meethotamulla originates outside Colombo,” said environmentalist Ravindra Kariyawasam. He informed that these waste consist of heavy metals such as Nitrate, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic from textile factories located in Kaduwela area. “It’s impractical to expand the Meethotamulla dump site just so it can be transported to Aruwakkalu in two and half years,” says Kariyawasam. “The CMC has failed to find a solution to the Colombo garbage problem for 20 years,” points out Kariyawasam. “Which implicates corruption.”
Citing a Colombo University study presented with their case, Perera said that there has been over 50 deaths due to dengue. “Only very recently a pregnant woman died due to an infection.”
Kariyawasam explained that methane deposits have already caused a number of small scale explosions. Walls of houses are fractured because of the deformation of ground due to the immense weight placed by the garbage mound. “The whole mass is moving,” said Perera. This begs the question, is this another bloemendhal waiting to happen?