Reeling from a double whammy
The incessant rains that lashed across Colombo and the suburbs since
May 14 make the already fragile houses close to the Meethotamulla
garbage dump more vulnerable to disasters after floods wreaked havoc for
over two weeks.
Reeling from a double whammy, residents have no option but to return
to their flood-ravaged houses to put up with the unbearable stench
emanating from the lofty garbage pile in addition to the filthy flood
waters which is receding at a snail pace.
Despite the fact their lives have already been affected by the 'skyish'
dump and not alternative houses provided to the residents of
Meethotamulla a fleet of garbage trucks is back at the dumping site as
flood waters recede in Kolonnawa and Meethotamulla area.
The Colombo Municipal Council caught in a dilemma during the floods
resumed garbage dumping in Meethotamulla from May 25 as it is left with
no alternative site. Its daily garbage operations came to a standstill
during the massive floods that devastated Colombo last week.
Therefore, the already stinking issue in Meethotamulla, reveals the
fact that the commercial capital has no permanent solution to its solid
waste management system posing a risk to those living in close proximity
to the dumping site.
According to Hemantha Withanage from the Centre for Environment
Justice the Meethotamulla dumping site posed a huge health risk during
floods as it added highly contaminated water in to the waterways
especially to the Kelania River which is the main drinking water source
for residents in the Colombo district.
Trucks unloading garbage at
"As we pointed out earlier it is not suitable to maintain a dumping
site of this nature in Meethotamulla as it is located in a wetland. The
CMC is dumping unsorted garbage which includes chemical and clinical
waste with the solid waste collected from the city. Therefore it poses a
huge health risk during floods of this magnitude contaminating the
waterways around the dump site", he added.He warned that continuing to
dump garbage at the site undermining the health risks and its capacity
which has exceeded will result in major environmental repercussions.
"The callous disregard for the environment and the health of people
is an injustice to those in the area as they are not subjected to health
check- ups to realise the gravity of the issue.
However, he added that this situation should not be used as an excuse
by the government to transport this garbage by rail to Aruwakkalu in
Puttalam spending massive amount of funds and put the fresh water
resource in Thabbowa at a grave risk.
"As a solution to this situation the authorities should encourage the
on-site garbage to enable the management of it easy for them and
consider the over 100 proposals they had received for a proper waste
management mechanism in Colombo without considering only the Aruwakkalu
project as the only solution ", he added.
A CMC senior engineer told the Sunday Observer, they have no option
but to dump garbage at the Meethotamulla site though it is not the best
He said the Municipal Council has reached out to the flood affected
people around the Meethotamulla dump site, to clean up houses and the
canal at the site.
"We looked into their needs and helped them to get back to their
normal life. We are attending to their medical needs as well. However we
had to recommence dumping at Meethotamulla with no other option.During
the floods we sent our garbage to Karadiyana dumping site after
obtaining a Court order enabling us to dump garbage their until floods
recedes", he added. He however said the CMC will have to continue this
practice until they find a permanent solution.However the Municipal
Commissioner V.A.K. Anura refused to acknowledge that the garbage at the
Meethotamulla site was responsible for the recent catastrophe in the
"Its devastation was due to the floods. The garbage disposal of the
CMC also got affected due to the floods and we resumed dumping of
garbage at the Meethotamulla dumping site soon after the flood water
receded in the area.
Now the collection and disposal in the Colombo city is back to
normal", he added.
Nuwan Bopage, the organizer of the People's Movement Against the
Meethotamulla Garbage Dump said the people in Meethotamulla and
Sedawatta had to suffer immensely from the floods due to garbage
mountain in Meethotamulla and after the floods they have been subjected
to respiratory and skin diseases and unlike other flood affected people
they cannot easily return to their houses as they are filled with filth
from the garbage site.
He said people could not even reach their homes during the floods to
collect their valuables and essentials from the floods due to the
heavily polluted water flowing into their houses from the dumping site.
Over 300 families living around this garbage dump were severely
affected due to this situation and nearly 80 families are not in a
position to return to their homes.
"The most dangerous thing is that the garbage from the dumping site
has blocked many waterways in the area and if steps are not taken to
clean them there would be more flooding soon", he added.
He said the people in Meethotamulla are victims of the wrong decision
taken by the authorities to have the garbage dumping site in a wetland
in Colombo which is a water retention area. Now the garbage site had not
only claimed the lives of many in Meethotamulla and Kolonnawa but also
the people in surrounding areas too as it spread its highly infected
waster into the water ways and flooded the down-streams in Colombo.
"The politicians come up with many solutions on stage and they make
use of the garbage issue to gain political mileage and charge huge
commissions from investors who come up with waste management projects.
But the issue has not been addressed so far.
The garbage disposal issue should be addressed before embarking on
mega development projects", he added.