Good Friday was a public holiday in Sri Lanka on account of the traditional New Year Day; while many people were marking the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year across the island, yet another man-made disaster occurred in a giant open garbage dump at Meethotamulla, Kolonnawa a suburb north of Colombo, where a huge garbage mountain collapsed killing many people and an unknown number reported buried, while tiles in those houses cracked, roofs collapsed with black water pouring into many homes on the edge of the dump of the poor people destroyed. In Sri Lanka, a land full of ambiguities, once again the rulers have failed to serve the poor and yet many have no choice but to pick-up the pieces and resume life on to vote for the same rulers at the next elections; thinking it was a natural disaster for that is all they know and bad governance forgiven again!
Kolonnawa in the backyard of Colombo with a large extent of low-lying land; parts of it were used as the dumping ground for the solid waste generated in Colombo over several decades and of late part of this site has now been utilized for the relocation of shanty dwellers affected by development activities and now the site at Meethotamulla nearby was used for the disposal of solid waste dumped daily by Colombo City. Almost all the adjacent low income housing areas do not have a regular waste collection service; hence, indiscriminate dumping of garbage in and around these areas has caused serious health problems to communities. This site is about 18 acres in extent, is not properly managed as a sanitary land fill site. All types of garbage including leftovers from slaughter houses are dumped in this site creating most unhealthy and insanitary conditions not only within the site, but also in the surrounding environment. Due to the collection of garbage over many decades, it is now producing methane gas resulting in fires in many parts of the site. It was also observed that the urban council does not have a proper strategy for managing their solid waste problem.
This disaster was waiting to happen at the doorstep in Kolonnawa on the outskirts of Colombo City, and the stench was unbearable; yet no action was taken by successive rulers to serve the poor people living in the neighbourhood of this dump yard. Last year the government received an omen with the floods, when the rubbish was floating around in to people’s homes and in February that year following a minor garbage slide, homes in the area were destroyed and authorities warned households to evacuate because of risks to them; but where could they move to and the parliament was warned that many million tonnes of garbage rotting at Kolonnawa was a serious health hazard, yet rulers took no action. Now nature itself had brought the disaster down on to the poor neighbourhood killing off the people who built houses around it! Having failed to resolve the issue, now after the disaster, the authorities are acting on the orders of the President to rescue the slum dwellers and more than 600 people were given temporary shelter at a government-run school in the area as authorities looked for alternative accommodation for those living near the dump.
A disaster that could have been prevented under good governance. For many years there had been concerns over the safety of this dump site, with residents demanding it be cleared, where about 800 tonnes of waste gets added to this open dump every day by the Colombo Municipality Council, despite safety concerns; The authorities had failed to remove it; now this incident has brought home the message once again of bad governance, that has become the norm in this tiny island with successive rulers failing to serve the people, where only the rich get richer and the poor left neglected. The bad governance continue with rulers exploiting the poor and for their personal gain; a disgraceful state of affairs.