Municipal waste

Island Editorial

Unsorted garbage won’t be collected in municipal areas with effect from today, the government has announced. Inconvenient as this move may be to the public, it is a step in the right direction provided all other measures necessary to make the project a success have been adopted. Separate bins and bags for different kinds of garbage will have to be made available. At present the public haphazardly piles up bags of garbage at designated places to be picked up by municipal workers who also walk that extra mile to visit homes if their palms are sufficiently greased.

The question is what the government intends to do with the garbage duly sorted by the public and collected by local government institutions. Are there facilities to recycle glass, paper etc and turn perishables into compost? Or, will all garbage in different bags be simply dumped together in existing refuse dumps like the one at Meethotamulla?

It is no use streamlining only the beginning of the process of garbage collection unless the end thereof is properly managed. Successive governments have adopted the despicable method of shifting the problem of municipals waste to suburban areas. There have been public protests against the existing garbage dumps in the outskirts of Colombo and moves to remove the trash therein to new locations. The government is groping in the dark.

The government has to reveal how it is planning to tackle the garbage issue before forcing the public to sort garbage. The law is said to apply to one and all equally. After all, that is what the present dispensation promised before the last two elections. But, in reality this does not happen. Members of the public who happen to have mosquito breeding places in or around their houses are hauled up before courts and fined in the name of dengue prevention. Such stern action is, no doubt, called for if mosquito borne diseases are to be controlled; no amount of urging and pleading will make people keep the environment clean. But, why is it that no action is taken against the heads of local government institutions and their officials for clogged drains etc which are ideal mosquito breeding grounds, in public places?

The Executive President’s legal immunity came in for much criticism and action has been taken to reduce it considerably. But, local government politicians and bureaucrats responsible for breeding mosquitoes are above the law.

Similarly, if an ordinary person leaves a bag of garbage in a public place he or she runs the risk of being nabbed and prosecuted. But, the so-called city fathers and their officials get away with the serious offence of dumping garbage in suburbs and causing huge environmental problems including the contamination of ground water. People of Meethtamulla say many residents including children are afflicted with respiratory tract diseases owing to air pollution caused by rotting garbage and poisonous gasses emanating there from. But, no mayor has so far been arrested for having city waste dumped in that area. It is time new laws were brought in to make the politicians and officials paid with public funds accountable for causing environmental problem and endangering public health.

Meanwhile, Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government Faiszer Muthapha ought to take action to hold local government polls without trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public any longer. One may wonder whether the garbage issue he has created is a ruse to distract public attention from the indefinite postponement of LG polls the government is wary of facing. The Joint Opposition claims even elections to co-operative societies have been put off as the government has lost many of those which have already been held.

Minister Musthapha should try to convince his political bosses suffering from ‘election phobia’ resulting from their poor performance and unfulfilled promises that ratepayers’ franchise must be respected.

People are waiting for LG polls to get rid of municipal waste of a different kind—inefficient, corrupt councillors who have been sponging off the public. They must not be denied the pleasure of disposing of political garbage, sorted or unsorted.

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