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Polluted for over 30 years:

Wystvyke canal adopted by Netherlands Embassy



The polluted canal
Pic: Nissanka Wijerathne

The Wystvyke canal in Crow Island, Mattakkuliya was officially adopted by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sri Lanka on May 7. The decision to adopt was made after accepting a project proposal submitted by the Sea Breeze Welfare Society, an organisation which was formed with the participation of some of the dwellers around the canal.

"I have been using the canal to dump garbage'', said a dweller whose fenceless backyard opens up to the canal.

"The water is black and very unclean and it has been in this condition for about 30 years now, so I got into the habit of dumping my garbage here. But the smell caused by the pollution is unbearable now and is felt by everyone residing around the canal.

I am prepared to stop it but some of the drainage from the apartment around here is disposed to the canal directly.

I am puzzled how that can be stopped. It is worse during rainy days and it has the tendency to overflow", he said.

The polluted canal poses some wider threats too, it seems that water and air pollution is not the only concern facing the residents of Crow Island. Another dweller in the vicinity said "The garbage attracts Water monitors and snakes. This is very dangerous and these animals often come out of the canal closer to my neighbourhood where children play. Night times are worse because the dogs in the area bark endlessly until the Water monitors go back to the canal. This disturbs our sleep as we wake up thinking they are barking after seeing a thief but then learn it is trying to chase away Water monitors", she said.

"This is a classic example of a neglected canal", said Ambassador Leoni Cuelenaere who was the chief guest at the event which marked the opening of the clean-up project. "The canal is two metres deep and two and a half kilometres long and was built by the Dutch 300 years ago. The adoption marks a new phase of ties between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. We will fund the complete cleaning up of the canal and later focus on capacity building around the area.

One of our main objectives of adopting the canal is to ensure that we create sufficient awareness about the need for conservation especially as the eco-system is playing havoc all over the world and we will be worse off if such conservation projects are not funded", said Cuelenaere. Secretary of the Sea Breeze Garden Welfare Society, C.A. Wijeweera told the Sunday Observer that they approached many authorities over the past few years before approaching the Embassy to fund cleaning up of the canal after becoming aware that it was built by the Dutch. "The property value around Crow Island dropped significantly after the Tsunami but it restabilised after a while. However, the low value continued around the canal's vicinity as potential buyers knew that the canal was a severe inconvenience", he said.

 

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