Tiny commitments from a thousand homes – mind separating matter

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Some may be wondering after Meethotamulla where all the Colombo waste is going. However, I do have a feeling that most had no idea whatsoever where things were disappearing into until the pictures of Meethotamulla came through their wide screens.

Initial Court orders of a few days to Karadiyana and Dompe, etc. met with strong opposition and those directions are no more taken. It is not the mayors who have to face the popular music but the tractor drivers and sanitation workers.

The absence of a place to deposit would mean CEB lamp posts perhaps getting buried with bags filled with household waste which in turn would attract animals of varying sizes as one need not guess about the attraction of fast food outlets to the animal world. It is an interesting social mystery why lamp posts are preferred for this particular purpose.

Post-Meethotamulla we all discussed the importance of waste segregation and doing your bit at home whenever possible. Media outlets did allocate some prime time slots for getting this message across. Time invariably passes and Sri Lankans do demonstrate their unique ability to listen and forget!

While one may oppose the display of a picture depicting a dead body being pulled out of the pile of collapsed garbage and buildings at Meethotamulla, in a call for action to do your own bit first, our action or rather the reactions sadly led us to interpret that they unfortunately did die in vain! We as a society enable mistakes to happen and never fully react positively to a situation taking whatever the lesson from an event. How many such situations can we recall!?

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Meethotamulla disaster’s life lessons

The Meethotamulla disaster had many life lessons – to those who believe in bagging garbage and simply forgetting the rest of the journey and associated impacts, to those who were warned of danger and saw the cracks appearing yet perhaps ignored the call perhaps in favour of more payments or the fatal attraction to secondary economic activities courtesy the dump, decision makers who had many a chance yet went on business as usual, etc.

A collection of bags from a thousand places when placed over a small plot of land over time can give rise to a mountain of garbage with the potential to kill and we have unfortunately witnessed just that. One should not think that a nominal payment of a property rate to the Pradeshiya Sabha or a municipal council is going to absolve one from the responsibility of a generator.

Some of these prevailing rates are really insignificant and actually not worth the effort of collection and issuing a receipt in my view. Yet with such payments we expect a service of such high excellence. It is simply inexcusable that we have allowed such a situation to exist up to now. With a figure of 0.8 kg of solid waste per person per day in urban areas, we appear to top the league table in the region for waste generation. Yet our knowledge and the commitment to be part of the solution are far from satisfactory.

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