WALK IN THE PARK
the Town Hall Square, taking up a vast area of prime land is the
Vihara Maha Devi Park – a colonial relic renamed after a
legendary queen. Although it intends to provide much needed
solace from the relentless heat and dust of the city, within the
park awaits an unattractive menace. It is garbage thrown into
the main pond and the trenches, polluting the greenery of the
ill-maintained setting. Also, a visitor will have to only
imagine the beauty of the fountains, that must have gushed forth
in great splendour, since they have all run dry, leaving only
gaping cement emptiness. The Nation visited the park recently to
record the dying beauty of Vihara Maha Devi Park
By Poornima Ravishan Wijemanne
It is generally acknowledged that Sri Lankans bear official
inefficiency with remarkable patience. But, even by Sri Lankan
standards, the maintenance – or the lack thereof – at the Vihara
Maha Devi Park has become intolerably ugly.
The Nation, upon visiting the park recently, to write about its
history and beauty was startled by its present crisis – which
turned out to be graver than what we were prepared for.
The Aquarium and the hanging bridge above the lake are barred
for the public, without any notice when they will ever be open.
The grass is unkempt and the ground underneath is stubborn, with
sudden and dangerous highs and lows. All of these and the
general feel of clumsiness found in the park are tolerable, even
preferable than some of the other surprises that were awaiting
The series of fountains along the brick road from one end to the
other of the park are empty. The taps do not work and the
toilets that charge two rupees per entrance are not maintained,
even up to general standards.
But nothing can beat the central pond in the park, which is
horribly polluted. It has been made shallow by layers of
polythene and the ever-lasting waste keep raising the pond
floor. An entire area of the pond has an almost solidified
surface with a velvety pulp of rotten flowers that intersperse
with green muck and suspicious bubbles keep trying to break the
surface. At the edge of the pond, a lone sign pleading people
not to pollute the pond, innocently stands.
Swimming in the unpleasantness are the colonies of deadly
mosquitoes and other dangerous things. A hand thrust in it could
come out with a thousand undiscovered skin diseases.
Above the pond is the hanging bridge that according to a
pineapple vendor has cost a ghastly amount of money but has been
used only on two occasions due to it being insecure. A real
pity, for as soon one sees it, one feels an immediate urge to go
across it. The barring deprives the public of a wonderful view
of the whole park and the pond, though the pond must now look
like a basin of vomit from above.
There’s another enticing little hut out on the pond that gives a
good view, but has a wooden bridge without proper handrails. One
slip on your way will splash you on to the foul water. What is
remarkable is not that the bridge does not have a handrail, but
that the constructors seem to have abandoned the idea of a
handrail halfway through.
Near the pond is a tree circled by a concrete trench, which is
filled with trash. In it are plastic bottles, polythene bags,
lunch boxes and other things that strangely remind one of a
stupid, selfish and hunchbacked mob eating and laughing away in
little exclusive groups that care little of the world beyond.
The security personnel at the park show a questionable interest
in keeping the premises clean. But this negligence is perhaps
encouraged by the higher authorities. Evidence does not present
itself to support this; it has to be pursued through an
exasperating line of phone calls.
The Nation met with the Officer-in-charge who refused to talk to
us citing national security concerns and directed us to the
Director Engineer of the Municipal Council to permit the
Officer- in-charge to speak. The Director Engineer, after being
unavailable for most of the day said that he was unable to
disclose any information unless the Municipal Commissioner
permitted him to do so. When finally we talked to Municipal
Commissioner Badrani Jayawardene, she agreed to permit her
deputy to speak. But when we returned to the Director Engineer
he said that since he still had not being informed of the
Commissioner’s clearance, he was still unable to disclose any
Though the authorities cited national security, they seemed not
to notice the danger a massive pile of garbage can pose to human
lives within the park.
Since information is impossible to be attained through official
sources, we resorted to the pineapple vending community’s
really isn’t any disgustful mischief going under the bushes in
the park, most stories are make believe. All that’s wrong with
the park is the maintenance,” said a pineapple vendor who wished
to remain anonymous.
According to him – and many others – the main problem is that
there is no singular person who supervises the maintenance on
ground-zero. The messages of the higher authorities do not
filter down strong enough to be turned into actions at the level
of security guards, cleaners etc.
This was written with the hope that the authorities will pay
some attention to the crisis at the Vihara Maha Devi Park.
Drawing its legend from the fame of two queens – Victoria and
Vihara Maha Devi – being graced by Anton Chekov and A.S. Joachin,
who went on to set a world record on standing on one foot for
the longest time in 1997, and also being the only decent patch
of green that a tired soul can rest his thoughts on, should be
maintained at least in consideration for the health of the
- (Pix by Nissanka Wijerathne)