Waste rots, want lots
Financial problems and a suitable waste disposal site are issues confronting local councils in Colombo’s suburbs, which have caused delays in garbage collection, causing inconvenience to residents.Ratepayers of the Kotte and Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia Municipal Councils and the Maharagama Urban Council are among those affected.
A cross section of residents told the Sunday Times that infrequent and irregular garbage collection during the past few weeks is causing health problems.E. Karunarathne, (79), a resident of Kotte, said that the garbage collectors are not regular. “We face various hardships because of this problem.
Garbage is kept outside on days the garbage collectors are supposed to come, and when they don’t, crows, cats and dogs tear the garbage bags left outside, strewing the garbage within, in front of our gate”.
S. Lakmani Jayathilake also a resident of Kotte, working at a private company, said that garbage disposal has become another burden in their day-to-day lives. “As both my husband and I are working, there’s rarely someone at home in the daytime when our children are at school, it has become a big problem for us to dispose of our garbage, as these garbage collectors are not regular. We don’t know when they’ll come during the week, so that, one of us could stay back,” she said.
W.D. Perera, (70), a resident of Gangodawila, said that, the delay in disposing of their garbage, makes it difficult for them to stay in their houses. “We have to keep the garbage in the house, because cats and dogs topple the trash cans, and after a couple of days, the stench becomes unbearable. It’s a big problem faced by many people. It’s time the officials concerned do something about this,” he said.
Garbage collection is done by both government and private companies. However, both sectors are faced with serious issues in this regard.
A private company collects garbage in the western part of Kotte, while the northern section is done by the Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte Municipal Council (MC).
Residents say, the private company has failed to keep to the timetable, and reduced the frequency of its garbage collection, distressing many residents of the area.
“We were given the contract by the municipality in 2005, and did our work efficiently, till recently. The problem is the lack of a proper waste disposal site. We hired private contractors to dispose of the garbage we collected. When they ran out of places, we had to take the process over and do it ourselves. As we don’t have access to dumping sites nearby, we take the garbage to Negombo,” Chief Executive Officer– Solid Waste Management Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, Dr. Ranjan Jayaratne told the Sunday Times.
He said the company which paid Rs 1.4 million per month to dispose of the garbage, now pays Rs 2.5 million to dump it in Negombo.
“Our main objective was to come up with a sustainable answer to the prevailing garbage problem, but we aren’t able to do so, because of the lack of a suitable dumping site,” he said.
However, Mayor of Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte MC, Janaka Ranawaka stated that garbage collection by the private company was stopped for two weeks, and since Wednesday (5), the council has initiated a special service to collect garbage in the area.
“Collecting garbage has become a business to people, and we pay around Rs 6 million to this company. With our special service, we believe that the piled-up garbage will be cleared soon,” he said.
The contract with the private company ends on January 31, 2013, but the Mayor stated that they are in the process of returning the service to the municipality. However, Opposition member of the council, Suraj Jayasooriya said that they cannot take on the task, because of the scarcity of workers within the MC.
“Provincial Council (PC) approval is required for our council to recruit workers, which is withheld, because the PC pays 60% of the council’s permanent workers’ wages,” he explained. The Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia MC too, has taken over the collection of garbage from a private company, with effect from September 1, also due to delays in garbage collection.
Mayor of Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia, A.M.D.H. Dhanasiri Amarathunga said the private company that collects garbage in certain areas of Mt Lavinia, had not collected garbage in protest, following the MC’s refusal to extend its contract after one-and-half years.
“We have hired new workers and vehicles for the task,” he said.However, a spokesman for the private firm said that the company continued collecting garbage, and that the MC had failed to make payments for 3-4 months.
Meanwhile, garbage collection in the Maharagama Urban Council MUC) area has been affected by the lack of vehicles.
Deputy Chairman- MUC, Sunil Kodituwakku said that the council lacked proper vehicles to collect and dispose of garbage.
“Earlier, we used to dispose garbage in an area in Nawinna, but since the contract is over, we now have to use the Karadiyana waste dumping site in Kesbewa, which is 18 km from here. Our vehicles are not in a condition to carry tons of garbage long distances and, as a result, we can collect only half of what we collected before,” he said.
The council collects around 50-60 tons of garbage per day from the area, using 18 vehicles, of which, most are in a bad condition.
“We spend much money on vehicle repairs, and when it rains, the issue is further compounded because our vehicles can’t move over garbage heaps. We are in a position to buy four more vehicles for the task, but the delay is in obtaining the Provincial Council Commissioner’s approval,” said a member of the MUC from the governing party, Nishantha Wimalachandra.
However, the Sunday Times learns that there are many more issues behind the ongoing problem of garbage collection.
Site Manager- Karadiyana Waste Management site, Kosala Gunawardena said that some garbage tractor drivers cut down on the number of trips allotted for the day, so as to save on their diesel allowance which they sell.
They sometimes trade their diesel for drugs,” he said. Kumari Wimalasooriya, a resident of Borelesgamuwa, said that garbage collectors expect payment from them. “This is another serious issue we face. They sometimes don’t collect garbage from houses they don’t get paid from, leaving before the garbage could be left outside. There are instances when people have to run behind the tractor to dispose of the garbage,” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of people are at the mercy of their councils to dispose tons of their garbage that accumulates daily, and with no end in sight of the problems faced, an outbreak of a serious health issue seems only a matter of time.
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