Sri Lanka faces national emergency over tons of stockpiled waste
by Melani Manel Perera

The waste crisis emerged following the garbage avalanche that buried an entire slum on the outskirts of Colombo. Card Ranjith appeals to the government. A new disposal area found in Muthurajawela, but the population and Catholic leaders oppose it.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - After the garbage avalanche that buried a whole slum on the outskirts of the capital, in Sri Lanka, the issue of waste disposal has become a real national emergency. Tons of non-recyclable material continue to pile up at the Disposal in Meethotamulla, where the avalanche of 25,000 tons took place on April 14, submerging people and homes, killing 32 people and leaving almost a thousand homeless.

Residents, leaders of the local Catholic Church and environmentalists are trying to prevent dump trucks from entering landfills with garbage. Card. Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, has appealed to the government for a solution compatible with both environmental sustainability and the well-being and health of the population.

On April 24, a team of Japanese experts, called after the disaster, presented their report on the Meethotamulla collection center to President Maithripala Sirisena. According to the study, the landfill must first be secured before the arrival of monsoon rains. The soil must be protected with polyethylene sheets. The bulk of the waste must be distributed symmetrically so as to ensure a balance of weight. In the long run, the Panel also recommends adopting a system for the reduction, reuse and recycling of discarded material.

For a long time the residents have been complaining of the inadequacy of the security measures of the landfill site of the tragedy, as well as various problems related to environmental pollution and the subsoil. The current issue, AsiaNews

Basil Fernando, a Catholic activist and former director of the Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong tells AsiaNews that the real issue, "is that the Muthurajawela area, the place suggested by the authorities to replace the landfill of Meethotamulla, is really inappropriate." Indeed, the area, says the Catholic, "was the biggest paddy field in the country, where a high quality rice was cultivated to feed the entire population. Now it has become a waste stream due to the Hamilton channel. "

The activist reports that Muthurajawela residents and Catholic leaders have already expressed their opposite position, and for these protests could be prosecuted under national security laws. Basil complains: "This demonstrates the abnormal mindset of Sri Lankan administration, which applies special laws where it fails to prevail over ordinary ones."

Among those who expressed themselves against the creation of the site are Msgr. Maxwell Silva (see photo), auxiliary bishop of Colombo, who visited the area together with a delegation of priests. Father Sarath Iddamalgoda, a member of the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM), states that Muthurajawela's citizens have every right to complain because "they have a responsibility to protect their lives and the environment they live in."