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Not in my backyard


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With the heat bearing down on us and indications pointing to the weather getting steadily worse before it gets better, cooling off with a dip in a pool or the ocean would seem like a very good idea, especially on a lazy Sunday morning.

With just such intentions, I headed to the Wellawatte beach, popularly known as Kinross, last Sunday. Hundreds of people were there splashing around in shallow water or swimming further away in deep sea. The sea was calm and all in all it was a very pleasant way to beat the heat.

For decades, this spot has been a favourite of people living in this part of the city; especially since it is known as a safe place for bathing and swimming, with lifesavers sitting on the beach just in case anybody shows signs of distress in the water.

However, there is one bad apple in the barrel and that is the surrounding garbage – not just on the beach but also floating in the water. Not only is it irritating and unhygienic, but some of the debris makes one feel really squeamish.

Why can’t we look after our beaches? Why is it that people thoughtlessly dump garbage, which spoils the environment? Where Kinross is concerned, there is the additional problem of having a canal that flows out into the sea, and whatever comes along with it drops into the ocean and then gets washed on to the shore. Polyethylene bags, plastic cups, old tins and just about anything.

Interestingly there are several hotels, upmarket restaurants and even a club in the area, for who the beachfront is important, but no one appears to see the need to take any kind of initiative to start a program that would keep the place clean. Of course doing a sharamadana on one day won’t help the system, there has to be a better plan that is sustainable and can be carried out on a daily basis.

No doubt that this has to be done with the help of the people who live on the beach, for example the fisher folk. This would even help to educate them and make them aware of the need for keeping their own environment clean.

In mid March the World Bank approved its first IBRD loan of US$ 213 million to Sri Lanka for our Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP). The project is to develop the Colombo Metropolitan Area to become the environmentally sustainable, modern capital of a middle income country, by rehabilitating, improving and maintaining critical infrastructure and services in order to position the city as a competitive hub by 2016.

The project will be implemented within a five-year period, with the clear objectives to reduce flooding in the catchment of the Colombo Water Basin, while also strengthening the capacity of local authorities in the Colombo Metropolitan Area (CMA) to rehabilitate, improve and maintain local infrastructure and services through selected demonstration investments.

Meanwhile, we can also see local authorities working on various areas from improving pavements, jogging tracks, planting trees to renovating buildings. All around there is a sense of urgency to upgrade the City of Colombo. That is the big picture!

While all this is going on, what can we do to help? We, the Colombo pundits who sit in our armchairs criticising the Government. I have heard this criticism at clubs, in homes, and at various other gatherings. We simply cannot see the need to be a part of this rapid development.

We need to change, to get involved. A simple thing of helping to keep the beach clean should not only be the responsibility of the authorities vis-à-vis the Government; shouldn’t we be civic minded and lend a hand?



(The writer, a PR consultant and head of Media360, was previously a mainstream journalist in print and electronic media. He also edits a new media website.)

 


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