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Just a few steps away from the dump, there was a huge puddle filled with brown water. The Good Shed area is a very popular commercial hub throbbing with food vendors: There were fruit stalls, bakeries and the bus stand was directly opposite the garbage dump. The Nation spoke to some vendors and passengers in the area to find out how this garbage dump had affected their lives

By Lakna Paranamanna and Jayashika Padmasiri in Kandy
Kandy city is famous for many things. Just with the utterance of the word ‘Kandy,’ the images of the sacred temple of the Tooth Relic and the historic lake flash across the mind’s eye.

‘The ancient city of beauty’ is what connotes Kandy to many people who enter this sacred city. However, contrary to this statement, The Nation witnessed another side of the city during a recent visit to the hill country.
In the middle of the city, in a bustling area next to a Buddha statue and a Bo tree near the Good Shed bus stand, was a huge reeking garbage dump.

Just a few steps away from the dump, there was a huge puddle filled with brown water. The Good Shed area is a very popular commercial hub throbbing with food vendors: There were fruit stalls, bakeries and the bus stand was directly opposite the garbage dump. The Nation spoke to some vendors and passengers in the area to find out how this garbage dump had affected their lives.

Complaints

Wasantha Kumari, who has been working for seven months at a food kiosk located just in front of this dumping site, said that the menace had been there for a long time, escaping the proper attention from the authorities.

“The authorities clean it, from time to time, although not regularly. But now, since about two weeks, they have stopped cleaning the dump. We cannot bear the smell, it stink so badly,” complained Wasantha.

She further said that during the rainy season, the situation escalated and got worse as there was a big puddle in front of the dump and the dirt got mixed with the water in the puddle. “When the buses pass this place, the dirt gets entangled and stuck on the wheels. The wheels carry it into the bus stand and then even the road gets covered with mud and dirt,” said Wasantha with a disgusted look on her face.

She pointed out that people were reluctant to buy goods from their stalls as they felt disgusted to buy food from such a place. “Flies and mosquitoes are breeding fast and many of us have fallen sick many times because of this menace,” said Wasantha.
Just like Wasantha, the timekeeper at the bus stand, Gamini Bulankulama, was another victim of this garbage crisis. He too complained of the unbearable stench and the inconvenience the garbage dump had created for them.

“This pile of garbage has been here for over four years now. We have to stay here for a long time since it is the nature of our job. But the problem is, we don’t even feel like having a cup of tea or eating a bun to relieve our hunger, as the dirt makes it disgusting to even think about getting something to eat or drink from the vendors at the bus stand. Those same flies that rest on the garbage come and sit on the food,” said Bulankulama.

He said that swarms of flies were bred because of this dirt and on several occasions he contracted illnesses due to the unhygienic conditions of the food. He also said that when they consulted a doctor they had to specifically mention about the place they work, otherwise it will be difficult for the doctor to identify the illness.

“We complained about this inconvenience. But, the Municipal Council said that they are unable to do anything since the garbage management of this area is given to a private company,” said Bulankulama. He also said that about four months ago, several people claiming to be from the Municipal Council collected Rs. 500 from each stall in the bus stand, promising to clean the garbage dump. “But no such activity has taken place so far and neither did those officials returned,” pointed out Bulankulama.

Chandana Paranagama was a private bus driver. He frequented the bus stand everyday and sometimes several times, during the course of a day. He also complained of the same misery that the others complained about.

“I have heard numerous passengers fussing and grumbling at the sight of this place. They come here after a long, tiring journey, expecting to get some refreshments from a kiosk or a stall here,” said Paranagama. But he pointed out that not only the passengers, even they entertained second thoughts about consuming anything from any of the shops or stalls at the bus stand.

He also pointed out that it was very disturbing to think that the authorities had decided to intentionally dump garbage in front of a sacred Bo tree. “I don’t know why the authorities don’t take any action to solve this crisis, we just hope that this garbage dump will be removed from here,” added Paranagama.

Another vendor at a sweetmeat shop, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Nation that the merchants feared to make further complaints to the Municipal Council knowing that the officials would come and harass the merchants, if they continue to grumble about this hazard.

Authorities blame the public
Despite continuous mumbles and grumbles from the people at the bus stand about the garbage dump, Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) Member Azwin Marikkar said that all those complaints were news to him.

“I do admit the fact that there is a garbage problem in the Kandy city. But, is it the Municipality that generates garbage? It is the public! But, however much we are trying to solve this problem, they do not cooperate with us,” charged Marikkar.

He said the city produced 120- 160 tonnes of garbage daily and that they were trying to arrange a methodical way to deal with this problem. He pointed out that most of the garbage that people released from their houses could be dealt within the house. “But the public never gives it a thought. They come and dump the garbage wherever they want and then point their fingers at the authorities claiming that it is our fault, once the problem get worsened,” said Marikkar.

He said that strong laws must be introduced against the people who do not manage their waste and added that the KMC was hoping to look into the matter and arrive at a conclusion soon on how to impose laws on the public. “To clap your hands, one needs a pair of hands. So, likewise we can’t do this alone. Those who dispose of garbage should cooperate with us to find a practical and successful solution for this matter,” said Marikkar.

Meanwhile, another KMC Member Ilahi Abdeen accepted the fact that there was a crisis of garbage prevailing at present, at the bus stand and at Good Shed. “It isn’t just a problem for that area, the whole city is facing this problem,” said Abdeen.

He said that the garbage collection couldn’t be carried out methodically due to the heavy rains that made it impossible to dump garbage at the dumping site at Guhagoda. He added that he was hoping that the garbage collection would return to normalcy soon. However, he assured that there was no breakdown in the system.

He also said that the public should be held responsible for this situation, as they were at fault for dumping garbage where they were not supposed to. “We advised them many times not to dump garbage outside and to wait until the collector arrives. But they never go by the requests made by us,” said Abdeen.

“We have handed over only one fifth of the garbage collection of the city to a private company. And even they are dumping their collection at the Guhagoda site. The collection must have got delayed as they also must be facing the same problem that we are facing,” said Abdeen.

He added that they had already started a work plan to deal with the waste collected within the city and 25% of it was already over and that they were hoping to implement laws to deal with this problem methodically.

Whatever said and done, or who keeps on blaming whom for the prevailing crisis, the fact remains that there is a huge garbage heap existing in the middle of the Kandy city creating immense difficulties for the public who have to deal with it daily.

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