The COVID-19 curfews brought cleaner and greener environs as people moved indoors. Photos of flowers in full bloom, rivers with clear waters and even a grassy Galle Face Green went viral on social media. But with curfew restrictions lifted, the Colombo city seems to be returning to its daily dose of pollution, as single-use plastic waste continues to accumulate in drainage canals. This has prompted the ‘No Kunu Initiative’ to make a comeback to ensure its objectives of keeping the city clean and pollution free.
Fairfield Gardens in Colombo-08 Borella is a diverse neighbourhood of haves and have-nots. The drainage canal that runs along the lane has been polluted with single-use plastic waste and other pollutants from surrounding houses. The drainage outlet, which is covered in certain places along the affluent neighbourhood, opens up near the railway tracks at the far end of the lane where it enters a neighbourhood of several under-served settlements on either side of the railway. Around 40 families live here. Most are daily-wage earners, contract workers and those employed in blue-collar jobs. For them the open canal has become part of their lives, although many have been infected with dengue. When Daily Mirror visited the site, the canal was unclean with stagnant water, although it appeared that attempts had been made to clean the canal recently in certain places.
Water stagnated at the drainage opening - Pics by Pradeep Dilrukshana
Here’s what some neighbourhood residents had to say about the situation:
Abeetha Panduka’s relatives live opposite the canal opening. No one has cleaned the canal as far as he remembers. “If it was cleaned, how can it be this polluted?” he asked. “It’s the waste from the other end of the lane that gets washed up to this end. And from here, waste like plastic bottles remain due to the mesh gates. But other tiny waste matter gets moved along the canal.”
However, A.R. Begum and M.K. Wasanthi who lived further down the tracks had a different story. “The canal is being cleaned occasionally. Some officials came a few days ago as well. This is where we have been living ever since we were born. So we have adjusted to the environment. The waste water from our houses also gets added to the canal. One concern we have is the CMC garbage trucks don’t come on time. So, garbage gets accumulated in the area.”
A passer-by who visits Fairfield Gardens on her evening walks said on conditions of anonymity that the area was initially a marshland that was converted into a housing area. “This canal wasn’t this polluted a few years ago. But now all the waste water from the neighbourhood is diverted to the canal,” she said.
No responsible authority
Daily Mirror learned some of the drains along Fairfield Gardens belonged to the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Cooperation (SLLRDC). “The drains coming under the purview of the CMC have been cleaned,” said Colombo Mayor
Engineer S. P. Muthumala, Deputy General Manager (Drainage & Reclamation) at SLLRDC said only the main canals in Colombo came under their purview. “Smaller canals may be coming under the respective local authority. But this specified location is covered, and we have a problem accessing the canal. There are no options to move machinery there. However CMC engineers have discussed with me about how to clean the drains. Apart from that, many under-served settlements too have been developed, and the water has stagnated.”
The canal is covered in most places
The brains behind ‘No Kunu Initiative’ Ms. Sumi Moonesinghe requested all citizens to dispose their garbage responsibly. “For this I request all Fast-moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies to educate people on responsible disposal of garbage. They could easily do this by adding a trailer in their TV commercials on how to dispose of their packaging. They should immediately look at implementing ‘Return-to-Sender’ promotional schemes which could be run at supermarkets as well.”
Moonesinghe added since October 18 No Kunu programmes were temporarily halted. But all proceeds were transferred to Aloka, a charity programme that sponsored school children who had lost their breadwinners to the Easter Sunday bombings.
“However we will recommence our work from the drain along Fairfield Gardens in Borella that continues until the railway track, all the way to the river. As always we are fortunate to receive enormous support from the Sri Lanka Navy under their CSR initiative, along with support from the SLLRDC. The exact date of the event will be announced once we get approval from the respective government institutions,” she said.
Ranjith Samaranayake Friday, 19 June 2020 02:56 PM
We must congratulate the efforts of the 'NO KUNU ' team and its founder Mrs Sumi Moonesinghe. Keep up the good work ! Jayawewa Lanka !
Roger Galpihilla - Germany Saturday, 20 June 2020 06:30 PM
In Germany there are drive in places with large containers white, green, dark brown for disposal of all kinds of plastics, glass, paper, clothes, shoes and the like.
It is matter of creating these kind of facilities by the respective municipal or other public authorities for people to use them. Nu Kunu can be achieved.
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