Waste and garbage
a threat to the Negombo lagoon
By Tania Fernando and Chandani Kirinde
The dumping of garbage, waste from factories and prawn hatcheries
is causing a serious threat to the aquatic life of the Negombo lagoon
and in turn the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen. Although
several environmental groups have raised concerns over the issue,
little action has been taken to stop the worsening conditions there.
The stench emanating
from the lagoon has also become a health hazard to over 12,000 people
who reside on the banks, which cover an area of about 3,600 hectares
of land. In most instances, it is these same persons who are guilty
of disposing their waste into the lagoon causing it to become polluted.
Fernando, Treasurer of the Negombo Lagoon Management Authority,
accused the Negombo Municipal Council too of adding to the problem
by diverting waste from the drains in the city to the lagoon. "Garbage
collection is at a minimal level and not even done once a week.
A lot of the garbage including polythene and plastics are thrown
into drains and with the monsoon it ends up in the lagoon,"
methods to prevent this, by using a filtering system, whereby the
garbage is filtered before reaching the lagoon, was discussed it
is yet to be implemented. "The prawns and fish are fewer in
the lagoon now. Those of us who make a living by fishing here face
an uphill task," said Upul Shantha, a lagoon fisherman, adding
that it was not possible to even get into the lagoon as often they
cut their feet on broken bottles and fishing hooks get entangled
with polythene bags etc.
The sewage from
the Negombo prison, which houses more than 2,000 persons at any
given time, also ends up in the lagoon along with waste from several
prawn hatcheries in the area and factories in the Katunayake Free
Trade Zone. The lagoon water is polluted by oil emptied into the
lagoon, by the large number of boats using the area for anchoring
A proposal had
been submitted to the Central Environment Authority (CEA) to close
down the prawn hatcheries in the area but no action has been taken
in this regard. "All parties including the public, the environmental,
Coast Conservation and Municipal Authorities should together help
to safeguard the lagoon. There is yet time to save this wetland
area before it is permanently destroyed," Mr. Fernando said.
R A D B Samaranayake, Director of Coast Conservation said that it
was people of the area who dump garbage. "The lagoon banks
do not come within our purview, but we are trying to amend the act
to include it as well", Dr. Samaranayake said, adding that
they are able to take action only if garbage is dumped into the
water, as their writ extends inwards upto 2 km's from the mouth
of the lagoon .