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Colombo’s water supply crisis overshadowed by elections

26 August 2015 04:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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An important and highly sensitive matter that impacted on the lives of millions of people living in and visiting Colombo was ignored by the people and the media in their post-election euphoria last week. 

If not for the election fever the water cut in Colombo on August 17 would have been a major issue for the media and the people countrywide. 

The detection of oil-contaminated drinking water led to the disruption of the water supply to Colombo and its suburbs without prior notice for nearly half a day. The contamination had been caused by the industrial waste released into the Kelani River by a factory located nearby. A matter that deserved intense public discourse was eclipsed by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the people and the media on the keenly contested parliamentary election being held that day.

Surprisingly the contamination was reportedly detected, not by officials of the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) through their safety measures but by some alert consumers. The timely detection resulted in the authorities taking steps to stop the the supply of drinking water and taking measures to purify their water storage tanks. Therefore the question that naturally arises is the kind of crisis situation that would have prevailed had the contamination level been of toxic proportions. In such a scenario, it would have been the same people who would have raised the alarm with fatal evidence and definitely would have been a major catastrophe in Sri Lankan history and what would have been its impact on the reputation of the country and on the tourism industry?

If the consumers have to complain to the NWSDB about the standard of the drinking water it supplies to them, it is not wrong to conclude that there is no constant or adequate safeguards in the water purification system. The NWSDB should also have to assure the people that the drinking water supplied to the Capital city is safe.

Another related news item in a newspaper which said authorities were to take legal action against the factory which had caused the contamination of water in the Kelani River was also overshadowed by the gung-ho situation created by various events in respect of the formation of the new government . Needless to say action has to be taken against the factory concerned. 

However, it did not emerge suddenly from nowhere nor was it planted by some evil force without the knowledge of the authorities in the environment sector as well as the NWSDB. Therefore the investigations have to be initiated not only into the actions of the factory owners but also the authorities who had allowed the factory or factories to release industrial waste into the river.

It has also to be mentioned that people in this country have been forced to pay exorbitant rates for drinking water derived from the natural resources belonging to the very same people. And the rate structures of the NWSDB and the electricity sector are in a way punitive to consumers and they repeatedly and insultingly warn even those consumers who regularly pay the monthly bills about interruptions via those same bills. 

Adding insult to injury if people have to risk their lives due to the poor safeguards in the water safety system after having paid from their hard-earned incomes, then it is tantamount to a crime. 
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