21st September 1997


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Kandy lake at stake

Text and pix by Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The picturesque Kandy Lake, one of the hill capital’s most scenic attractions is being polluted by the ugly hands of man, while authorities remain in a quandary over its maintenance.

The once beautiful lake today emits a nauseating smell. As these pictures taken last week reveal, there were many dead fish floating on the surface, in addition to Pepsi Cola cans, yoghurt cups, polythene bags, and other debris in the once clear waters. Sewage from the Avanhala, a popular hall in the city was directly flowing into the Lake, leaving the water a polluted bluish hue. The many complaints by the residents to the authorities have so far gone unheeded.

Maintenance of the lake and its picturesque beauty had once been a royal duty. But today, there is nobody to accept the responsibility for its maintenance despite Kandy being a famed tourist attraction and a bustling modern town with hundreds thronging the city on a daily basis.

City Mayor, and former parliamentarian Harindranath Dunuwila told The Sunday Times that the Kandy Municipal Council has asked for permission to take the Kandy lake under its purview, as water contamination has become a big environmental issue. At present, the lake comes under the direct supervision of the Irrigation Department.

The Irrigation Department and the Kandy Municipal Council share the responsibility of maintaining the lake. While the cleaning of lake waters comes under the Department, the KMC is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk and the Walakulu Bemma, the architectural short wall surrounding the lake.

The Mayor said that he had sent samples of the water to the Zoology and Veterinary Departments of the Peradeniya University for testing and the unconfirmed reports indicated that the fish were not dying due to contamination, but due to a small parasite attacking.

“ We are prepared to take over the aspect of maintenance as well, but so far have not received the green light. Several times, the sewage entrances have been cleaned up by the KMC despite the lack of direct authority, and the subject coming under their Reclamation Department,” he said.

Irrigation authorities said there was a problem with maintenance, as their duties were not clearly defined. A spokesman said that there was no official communication regarding a decision to hand over total control of the lake. Meanwhile the KMC has passed a multi million project to reconstruct and repair the “Walakulu Bemma”, which has been accepted by the reclamation authorities for speedy implementation.

The KMC has also conducted a cleaning operation of the lake last week with a group of residents, and weeded and removed much of the debris.

“We need a greater commitment than this to preserve the legendary beauty of the Kandy Lake, and the tussle between the authorities is not the answer. A decision to hand over maintenance to the KMC should be done immediately before people are compelled to leave the area owing to acute pollution,” the Mayor said.

While the authorities struggle for control over the lake, pollution continues. A place of historical significance and exemplary natural beauty, the Kandy lake deserves better.

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