Meethotamulla tragedy: Consequences of negligence and lethargy? | Daily News

Meethotamulla tragedy: Consequences of negligence and lethargy?

 In the eve of New Year celebrations, it was a bleak day for the people in Meethotamulla, Kolonnawa, as the infamous garbage dump collapsed, claiming 23 lives and counting. Reports say that 180 families are displaced and the affected have been provided temporary shelter at the Terrence N. De Silva Maha Vidyalaya in Kolonnawa and close by community centers. More than 1,000 military personnel are deployed for rescue and relief mission launched following the man-made disaster.

The officials say that the garbage mount shifted due to heavy rains, and later, a fire erupted, worsening the destruction.


The Meethotamulla garbage dump, located in Potuwilkumbura, was a small-scale dump garbage site for Mulleriyawa and Kolonnawa provincial councils. Following the shifting of Blue Mandel Garbage dump, garbage collected from the Colombo municipal council was also dumped to the Meethotamulla garbage dump. In 2009, the residents of Meethotamulla area have filed a human rights case against the Colombo municipal council at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court says to stop dumping garbage to this site within two years and the dump area should be limited to only two acres.

There have also been number of several public protests against dumping garbage in this area in 2013.

However, the Meetotamulla garbage dump has grown up to 17-20 acres, and it is said the height of the garbage mountain was closer to a 20 meters. Around 800 tons of garbage is dumped to Meethotamulla on a daily basis.

Eight Grama Niladari divisions including Sedawatta, Welewatta, Kotuwila, Kuruniyawatta, Kittampahuwa, Weheragoda, Wennawatta, and Halmulla surrounds the Meethotamulla garbage dump. There are about 5,000 families resided in the area and about a 20,000 general population live in the vicinity of the garbage dumping area.


Speaking of their miseries, several victims who are currently settled in the Terrence N. De Silva Maha Vidyalaya, said that they shall not go back to live in the hell hole once again.

M. Shanthi, 42, from Nagahamulla said, “The Meethotamulla garbage dump site was created twenty years ago, and we were facing issues continuously since then. We request the government to provide a permanent shelter to live without any more hazardous situations as these.”

Inoka Priyangi, 33, from Dahampura said, “We are temporarily residing at the welfare centre at Terrance N. De Silva College in Kolonnawa, and our basic needs are being satisfied. Dhampura is severely affected by the garbage dump. Our houses were inspected by the officers of the Kolonnawa Municipal Council two weeks prior to this hazard and they said that there is no risk to our houses. Yet this tragic incident took place. However, we request the Government to provide safe and permanent shelters to the victims.”

A. Nanawathi, another victim, said, “We are not expecting to reside at Dahampura again since it will be very risky for our lives. We request the Government to provide compensation for the damages and to obtain permanent residence at some other area.”

Malan Bandula from Wisithunawatta said, “We were facing many issues due to the Meethotamulla garbage dump site. Many diseases, including dengue, spread due to the improper waste management at the dump site. We were asked to move out of our houses on Saturday due to the prevailing risk. We kindly request the Government to take effective measures to this issue and to provide solutions to the affected people.”

A first aid and medical aid camp facility was established yesterday in the welfare center, conducted by the St. John Ambulance Association and Brigade.


A problem running for decades: Dr. Harsha de Silva

 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva said in a media statement that no more garbage will be dumped into the Meethotamulla garbage mount. “A problem running for decades, perhaps as long as 20 years, came to a head with the collapse of a part of the garbage mountain. It's ironic that it was only a few weeks back that agreements were signed to begin waste to energy projects to finally deal with this perennial issue. Anyway, no more garbage will be dumped at this site and two temporary sites were identified this morning for which law enforcement officers will provide access to unblock protesters driven by petty political issues,” Dr. de Silva said.

He also said the state will bear all funeral expenses of the all the victims who lost their lives in the tragedy.

“However, it's unfortunate that even though payments had been made for those families under risk of land slides to move out, some had not done so. They had even been advised to leave as recently as two days ago,” he added.

Dr. de Silva also said, "Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has ordered the release of all necessary funds from the Treasury to deal with all financial requirements."


Immediate steps to facilitate victims: S.M. Marrikar

UNP MP S.M. Marrikar said, “...The government should be responsible for this, even though this dump began under the previous government. The current government, for the past two years, could not even stop the dumping of garbage at this location.” Marikkar also demanded that the victims of the tragedy be given new homes in the Kolonnawa Pradeshiya Sabha.

The government has taken immediate steps to facilitate the victims. President Maithripala Sirisena has called for an accurate assessment report regarding the victimized families and damaged properties within five days in order to compensate the victims of the incident.





Former Colombo Mayor refuses to comment:M.H.M. Musammil

Former Colombo Mayor M.H.M. Musammil refused to make a statement regarding the Meethotamulla incident to the Daily News, when contacted via WhatsApp. “I am not the Mayor now and I am not in Sri Lanka. I am currently in Malaysia. Hence, I cannot make a statement in this regard,” he said.

Needs long term solution:Nuwan Bopage

Attorney-at-law Nuwan Bopage, Chairperson of the ‘The Peoples Movement Against the Kollonnawa Garbage Dump’ said the politicians are trying to use the dead bodies of the victims as a means to an end.

He said, no politician cared enough to bring a long term solution to the garbage dumping problem in Meethotamulla.

Responding to Daily News, Bopage said compensating is just not enough, and the government needs to apply a long term solution to the matter at hand. He highlighted the fact that more than 60 waste management projects concentrating the area were spurned down for financial gains derived from the process of dumping garbage.



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