Herat Gunaratne and Esther Williams
Mounds of garbage lying on streets beside boards that
prohibit such dumping. Not only garbage dumping but also its collection
seem to be problems that have no answers.
has her garbage problem under control. Her home freezer contains
food as well as waste. Whenever she has prawns for dinner, she ties
up the shells in a polythene bag and puts it in the freezer to be
handed over whenever the garbage collectors decide to come.
But for Sujatha
Fernando, it is a different story. On the day the truck is due,
she keeps her garbage out but sometimes it does not come. Then she
lugs it back into the house and endures the stench and flies. In
desperation she persuades her husband to shove it into the car and
they set off in the evening looking for a dumping "bin".
The whole evening
is wasted driving around, and as night falls, they surreptitiously
drop it by the roadside and drive off in a hurry.
This is the
situation faced by the majority of people in urban areas, be it
Colombo, Kandy, Sri Jayawardhanapura Kotte, Dehiwela - Mount Lavinia,
Galle, Moratuwa or Batticaloa. How are ratepayers to dispose of
their garbage? In the good old days, when most homes had large gardens,
garbage pits were a common feature. But with limited space, householders
are at their wits end when local authorities refuse to take
responsibility for garbage collection.
number of complaints seems to emerge from the area under the purview
of the Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia Municipal Council. Garbage trucks
line up in Ratmalana as the only garbage dump of the area is situated
there. "This too will have to end this month," says Mr.
Sumanasiri Silva, the Mayor's Co-ordinating Secretary at the Municipal
Council. "The residents of Attidiya took the Dehiwela - Mount
Lavinia Municipal Council to court over the dumping that takes place
in the area."
Mr. Silva: "The residents are not responsible enough to place
their garbage at the right place at the right time. The garbage
is collected from the main roads every day and from by-roads and
residential areas at least twice a week.
are times when after the truck has made its round, people call in
saying that their garbage was not collected. Also, the dumping grounds
cannot hold the large volumes of waste that is collected every day.
has considered alternatives, composting and recycling among them.
But residents still complain that their rates have increased though
services, like garbage collection, have not. While accepting this
fact, Mr. Silva points out that this is not due to any change in
the Municipality's policy. It is simply due to the fact that the
valuation of the land on which basis the rates are decided, took
place only last year after a lapse of eight years.
In other areas,
residents come up with their own garbage solutions. Take the case
of Tharuka and her neighbours, who live in Rajagiriya. They pay
the garbage collectors to pick up their garbage; as otherwise, the
truck does not come down their road.
But on nearby
Nawala Road the situation is different. "Our garbage collection
is very regular," says Sharmila Cooray adding that the Kotte
Municipality has even provided residents with "bio bins"
for perishable garbage. These bins, formerly tar barrels with lids
and an outlet at the bottom, once packed with biodegradable garbage,
gives out manure after six weeks.
The main complaint
of residents of the Kotte Municipality is the dumping of garbage
on Buthgamuwa Road. "We hope to solve the problem in 2-3 weeks
as we have already isolated another dumping ground. In the meantime
we work from 8 to 8 at the Buthgamuwa dumping site to level the
land in order to use it for another development project," says
Mr. Pasan Attale, the Secretary to the Mayor of the Kotte Municipality.
Besides this they are also exploring possibilities of alternative
methods of disposing garbage.
a forgotten lot," says Priyanthie de Silva of Himbutana, close
to Thalangama that comes under the Kottikawatte Pradeshiya Sabha.
There is no regular pick-up and residents take their garbage to
dumps which may or may not be cleared each week. "We pay annual
taxes and still get no service."
Kelaniya complain that they have little option but to drag their
garbage long distances.
engaged in garbage collection include Abans Environmental Service
(AES), a private janitorial service company that takes care of street
sweeping, garbage collection from houses, cleaning of surface drains
and removal of posters and banners in Colombo West, Colombo Central
(this includes a part of Fort, Hulftsdorp and Kotahena) and Kotte.
"All the garbage that we collect is dumped in the Bloemendhal
dumping yard provided by the Municipality," says AES Director,
Mr. Feroze Pestonjee.
Most of the
garbage collected within the Colombo Municipal Limits is dumped
in Bloemendhal. Having received numerous complaints with regard
to the stench, the CMC is now in the process of handing over the
composting operation to a private organization. It has been ascertained
that 30% of the non-biodegradable substances can be recycled (this
differs from place to place) and of the 70% of the biodegradable
waste, 50% can be converted into compost.
in the heart of Kandy town, however, are lucky. The garbage is collected
every morning. "We have no complaints," says S. S. M.
Zavahir who lives in Kotogodella Veediya, adding that the Municipal
Council had also taken measures to ensure that littering does not
take place. "The Municipality put up plastic cans to stop littering."
In the Kandy
suburbs however, there are many complaints. Last November a circular
went out from the Kandy Municipality to those living in Nuwarawella,
about 2 1/2 miles from the town, informing them that the garbage
would be collected at 8 every morning.
A week went by but no truck came and the people therefore had no
choice but to dump their garbage about a mile away.
Why is there
such a disparity? Mr. M.G.M. Sarooj, the Administrative Officer
of the Solid Waste Management Section of the Kandy Municipal Council
says they have five main zones. The first zone covering the Kandy
town has been commissioned to Care Kleen, a private institution
specializing in janitorial services, while the other zones are under
the Municipal Council. The collected garbage is then dumped in Gohagoda,
a 35-acre landfill around 8 kms from the town.
has its own complaints as the public has not been informed of the
collection timings. The Administrative Officer of Care Kleen's Kandy
branch says this makes it chaotic and more time consuming. He believes
that the public takes the service for granted, expecting the workers
to be at their beck and call any time of the day. Mr. Sarooj confirms
that the Municipality has to foot a large bill of its own to pay
the janitorial fee. As for the complaints from residents away from
the town centre, he says, "We have informed them of the times
and the places from which the garbage will be collected. It is up
to them to make a conscious effort to help us out to make the city
week: What are the answers?
recycling of metal, paper and plastic is done in many countries
in the west where they follow an efficient solid waste management
system. Here in Sri Lanka, except for paper, there is no other recycling
activity. There are a few private organic farms in Kandy that have
a composting operation including the one in Piliyandala that uses
Asia Travel Association (PATA) through their Bottle Binning Campaign
has taken a step towards recycling used bottles and cans. Labelled
bins have been placed outside the Keells Supermarket at Liberty
Plaza where customers can drop off their used bottles that are not
accepted by the 'Bothal' man. Arrangements have been made with the
organizations that sell bottled products to reuse them. All the
organizers ask of the consumers is that they rinse out and sort
the bottles by colour before handing them over.
awareness is not strong enough and people are not totally committed
to recycling and reducing waste," says PATA Sri Lanka Chapter
Chairman Hiran Cooray. "It has to happen from schools, religious
institutions, business houses, politicians and the entire community
to make it work.Until that happens the attitude of most people is
to 'use and throw.' Their intervention is just a small step in the
right direction, he explains.
to expand this operation from Ja-ela to Moratuwa with the co-operation
of the travel trade, the Ceylon Glass Company, leading supermarkets,
hotels and restaurants. If successful it would be carried out in
other parts of the country as plans are being made to expand the
project to include plastic bottles, plastic bags and tin food cans.
But what action
is being taken by the state? According to Mr. Chatura Malwena, Senior
Environmental Officer at the Central Environmental Authority, a
pilot project involving 5,000 households in the Maharagama area
is already underway. Under this programme garbage separation is
enabled through the distribution of coloured garbage bags. Blue
for paper, yellow for plastic, brown for metal and coconut shells
and red for glass. In addition to this compost bins are also distributed.
Since this has proved to be effective they plan to extend this to
the rest of the country in a phased manner.