Home / FT View/ Old problem of garbage

Old problem of garbage

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 20 March 2018 00:00

The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has sought the assistance of police to arrest anyone who dumps garbage illegally, and has decided to stop collecting non-segregated waste. The move comes as complaints of the CMC refusing to remove garbage return, less than five months after the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry proudly claimed that the garbage problem in Colombo had been solved.

How is it, that even after the Meethotamulla tragedy, greater resources, international expertise and Government attention, that garbage still continues to be a problem in Sri Lanka? Simply put, the State struggles to implement sustainable policies that provide holistic solutions over the long-term. Not just for garbage, but other issues as well: from power supply to poverty reduction, public frustration is growing because the Government is unable to put its plans into action in such a way that it actually provides solutions, at least for several years. It is the inability to have sustainable policies that has hampered Sri Lanka’s development, arguably more than anything else in the post-war period, and the inability of politicians and public servants to coordinate their efforts and get things done is a frustration that is wearing out public patience fast.

Piles of garbage combined with rain could bring renewed ravages of dengue. Readers need not be reminded of the havoc wrecked by the combination last year, and how, after much panic, pressure and resources, the issue was finally brought under control - but not before hundreds of lives were lost. When a Government waits till the last minute to act, or does not provide incremental solutions, its knee-jerk reactions can do more harm than good. This is how corruption can sneak in, or valuable wetlands can be demarcated to become garbage dumps, as has been the fate of Muthurajawela. Yet it would seem that these lessons have not been learnt.

From the public’s perspective, it is discouraging to have to face these situations again and again, and have their appeals and counsel fall on deaf ears.  It does not matter to them that the CMC and Megapolis Ministry are battling to shift the blame to each other: they simply want solutions. When countries around the world have dealt successfully with this issue, the Government cannot continue to spew excuses and concentrate only on politics.

Sri Lanka’s population is approximately 21 million, which generates 2.3 million tonnes of garbage annually (6,400 tonnes of solid waste per day according to Ministry of Environment – 2013). Compared to countries like Australia, Sri Lanka produces a tiny amount of solid waste, but is still unable to manage it. Therefore it is essential that the Government gets its act together on this issue and provides coordinated and sustainable solutions.

While the Government has kicked off several waste-to-energy plants, imported state-of-the-art incinerators, and planned new landfills, it has done little to pull these fragmented efforts into an industry, which is how it is handled in other parts of the world. The CMC contends that people are failing to sort the garbage, making it harder to process its removal, but how are these issues dealt with in other countries? Why can there not be strong awareness messages, enforcement of laws and sustainable policies? Greater public-private partnerships and better public engagement? Sustainable solutions are the bedrock of good public service.  


Share This Article


1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.


Today's Columnists

In the desert of Tamil films, actor Sivaji Ganesan was an oasis

Saturday, 22 September 2018

‘Indian Film,’ first published in 1963 and co-authored by former Columbia University Professor Erik Barnouw and his student Dr. Subrahmanyam Krishnaswamy, is considered a seminal study of the evolution and growth of Indian cinema. The book is cit

Imran may turn blind eye to blasphemy law and persecution of Ahmadiyyas

Saturday, 22 September 2018

There are clear signs that Pakistan’s freshly minted Prime Minister, Imran Khan, will make a sincere effort to reduce corruption and maladministration in the domestic sphere. In foreign affairs he is likely to make a brave attempt to mend fences wi

The rate of exchange, capital flight and the Central Bank

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Central Bank (CBSL) exists for the sole purpose of price stability. Its controls on the financial system and monetary policy exist to maintain price stability. As put forth many times by the Governor, the failing of the CBSL to control inflation

Red flag over the Sri Lankan Navy

Friday, 21 September 2018

Shocking story Rusiripala, a former banker in Sri Lanka, who has taken to writing in Daily FT, is perturbed by the red flag I have raised (Daily FT article 18 September) over the shocking charge that our Navy had operated a ransom gang that had abduc

Columnists More