The issue of haphazard dumping of garbage has been bothering us for quite some time. The ugliest side is that garbage removed by the local authorities to protect the good health of their residents, is often dumped in other areas causing health problems to the people of those areas. Thus we create a new problem to the people of one area in order to satisfy the people of another area.
We Sri Lankans are famous for throwing our garbage at other people’s doorstep and the way our local government institutions handle the matter is probably a reflection of that national habit. All this happens because of the absence of a well-designed islandwide programme for disposal and treatment of garbage and other waste products.
The issue received attention of the whole country when the recent flood waters washed away the mountain of garbage at Kolonnawa making the whole area stink, further hitting the people who were already affected by the floods. It further escalated when attempts by the municipal authorities to dump garbage in several new suburban locations in were resisted by the people of those areas.
A few years ago there was a proposal for the Colombo Municipal Council and the Urban Development Authority to work together to transport Colombo’s garbage through the railway to a new location in Puttlam to be used as fuel in some cement factory. There were also reports to say that the proposal received the cabinet approval although nothing seems to have happened since then.
From time to time there had been proposals to have a garbage recycling mechanism sometimes with foreign expertise. However, none of these seem to have received the serious attention they deserve.
Though it appears to be mostly a problem in the city of Colombo and its suburbs, with rapid urbanization garbage disposal could become an islandwide issue. Studies have shown that garbage dumps could expose people to virulent diseases including dengue, malaria, skin disorders and gastro-intestinal infections.
Now with bitter experience that came with flooding and with possibility of numerous new health issues in the future, top priority should be given to finding a permanent solution to this problem which has been plaguing the city and its suburbs for long. Perhaps this could happen as part of the proposed megapolis development plan.