Developed countries recycle plastics or use them to generate power while we bring destruction to ourselves from plastics
- Garbage deposited in sea bottom destroy fish breeding places
- Fish varieties Kalanda, Mondaliya, Silinda no longer thrive in shallow sea
- Fishermen take all the plastic with them back to the land after fishing in the sea but local tourists dump garbage at the beach
By P.H.P. Perera
The coast and the shallow sea areas stretching from Wattala to Negombo have become one of the most polluted coastal belt in the country. This sea stretch has been polluted by garbage largely encompassing of polythene and plastics. We visited the area and talked to some of the community leaders and professionals in the area over the gravity of the plight.
Ajith Nelson, the Chairman of the Kaldiyawatta Aluth Akkaraya Joint Rural Fisheries Organisation, said discarded polythene and plastics kept flowing into the coast for over the last decade.
“As fishermen, we witness this first-hand. Unlike other garbage, polythene and plastics never degrade and deposit as a layer in the bottom of the sea bed. Garbage not only affect humans but also marine life including fish. A number of fish varieties which made the shallow sea their home no longer exist. Garbage deposits in the sea have affected their breeding. For an example, the fish we caught in the shallow seas such as Kalanda, Mondaliya, Silinda and some varieties of Karalla can’t be found today. Fish species such as Pulunna and Pannawa which were plenty in the shallow sea can only be found in the deep sea in small amounts today. In a few days, they will also disappear,” Nelson said.
He said their fishing nets are being torn and destroyed because of garbage entangled in them. “Repairing torn nets is a time consuming task. If we are to buy a new net, it could take at least Rs.100,000. This is the outcome of plastic,” he said.
An official defended the fishermen and said they were of the habit of taking all the plastic with them back to the land after fishing in the sea.
Nilanthi Madurawala, the Development Officer at the Uswetakeiyawa Fisheries Inspectors Division, said the local tourists who visit the beach dump garbage at the site.
“Also, the plastics and polythene which flow along with the drainage water through canals and rivers end up on the beach and the ocean. If there is a mechanism to prevent these discards from reaching the beach and the ocean, we can preserve the coastal area which is being destroyed aggressively,” she said.
She also said there was no proper method adopted by the local government bodies to dispose garbage piling up at houses. “Therefore, garbage disposed by people find their way into the ocean through canals. Preventing this is not impossible. Some developed countries place a net and block discarded materials from reaching the ocean. They remove these garbage and recycle them. Unfortunately, the authorities can’t even take any initiative to launch such a project,” Madurawala said.
Meanwhile, a social activist and the Chairman of S.G.Foundation, Suresh Kumara said it was a sin to destroy the nature. “If our action brings destruction to the earth, the development we achieve, it’ll become futile. The sea area from Wattala to Negombo has been polluted with polythene and plastics. This is a result of poor actions and opinions of the people. People will soon witness the repercussions of their harmful acts,” Kumara said.
He said some of the non-degradable material could become cancerous. “Developed countries recycle plastics or use them to generate power while we bring destruction to ourselves from plastics,” he said. He said his organisation would initiate a project with the families in the area to recycle plastic and polythene.
“It is unfortunate that not even a garbage bin has been placed along the beach by the local government authorities,” Kumara said.