Television channels showed on Saturday Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha being challenged by residents of an area in Colombo, when he went to inspect the progress of the government’s programme to collect segregated garbage in the Municipal Council areas from November 1.
A person questioned the Minister as to whether the authorities had explained to the residents on what basis the garbage should be segregated.
He said in other countries residents were provided with garbage bins in several colours to dump segregated garbage. The Minister was seen withdrawing without responding.
There are two sides of the story. The Government cannot implement this kind of a programme without the support of the people on one hand and on the other hand it cannot be implemented by threatening the people by filing litigation, without a proper plan and support to the people.
Needless to say that garbage is not only a simple problem in the country to be ignored, but also a life-threatening menace. For instance, the stench emanating from the much-talked- about Meethotamulla garbage dump spreads up to a radius of about a mile around it, putting hundreds of thousands of lives in danger.
Yet, thousands of tons of garbage is still being dumped there daily, while authorities are fighting each other putting forward various plans to solve the problem. With the onset the rain, another round of dengue is also just around the corner.
In the meantime, it seems to be a lucrative business for some politicians or their henchmen, as plans by one group to resolve the problem are being sabotaged by another, even at a time when President Maithripala Sirisena has willingly taken over the subject of Environment under his purview
Months ago, Chief Minister of Western Province Isura Devapriya announced that a company from the United Kingdom had come forward to build a recycling plant for the Meethotamulla garbage dump, and the Chief Minister was seen inspecting the dump with the foreign company officials.
But now he claims that the authorities concerned were hesitant to provide a block of land for the purpose, while some other politicians are ridiculing his plan.
A move by another group of authorities to transport the Meethotamulla garbage to Ja-ela has been challenged by the people and politicians of that area.
Also there was a plan to transport Colombo garbage to Wilpattu, in order to fill the huge craters, dug by the brick producers, which has also, come a cropper.
Same situation arose, when a section of the authorities of the Colombo Municipal Council was attempting to solve the problem faced by the Bloemendhal garbage mountain several years ago owing to opposition by interested parties.
We have another ever rising solid waste mountain at Madampitiya in Colombo as well, without any solution, apart from the problems faced by other local government bodies.
Underhand transactions of huge amounts of money have been attributed to the impediment for the solutions of Sri Lankan garbage problem.
Coming back to the segregation of garbage at household level, it is fine as a concept. But it is not clear as to whether there is a practical follow-up process. It is not clear as to what the authorities are going to do with the segregated garbage. Are they going to recycle the solid waste so collected? When? Where? By whom?
The local government bodies in the Colombo suburbs intermittently announce their plans to collect segregated solid waste. Sometimes they circulate leaflets among the respective residents informing them to segregate their garbage into two, as decaying and undecaying, according to a list they provide which does not include all items that are to be discarded.
However, with the passage of a few weeks, while people segregated their solid waste the authorities had ridiculously abandoned the programme, for want of a proper plan to dispose of the waste so collected.
This issue cannot be resolved without a proper action plan and a genuine dedication on the part of the authorities as well as the citizens.