A Living Hell
Masses of flies, herds of cattle, an army of stray
dogs and a killing stench will welcome anyone who
enters the Gohagoda garbage mountain in Katugastota,
Kandy. What is unbelievably true is that about 1000
persons accounting for approximately 150 families
have either chosen or been compelled to live in this
garbage nerve centre known as Gohagoda garbage
mountain or the solid waste management site of the
Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) in Thekkawatta area of
the Harispattuwa Pradeshiya Sabha limits in
Katugastota. Daily, approximately 100 to 150 tonnes
of solid waste collected by the KMC and the
Harispattuwa PS is dumped at the site, according to
labourers at the site and the KMC. In 2003, this
uncontrolled dumping site at Gohagoda was upgraded
to a semi-engineered landfill in 2003 with financial
and technical assistance from Japan International
Cooperation Agencies (JICA). However, due to lack of
proper operational mechanism in maintenance, the
semi-engineered landfill has been reverted to an
Gohagoda land which is 32 acres in extent has served
as the Kandy solid waste disposal ground since 1977
when the KMC stopped using its Nittawela facility.
The KMC obtained the Gohagoda land during the
colonial administration. It originally belonged to
the Kondadeniya Temple.
This garbage dump has been the topic of much
controversy and a few months back the Environment
Ministry threatened legal action against the Kandy
Municipal Council for failing to address the garbage
crisis in the City.
Former environment Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka
said his ministry had offered Rs.300 million to the
Kandy MC to upgrade the Gohagoda garbage disposal
site in order to address the garbage issue in the
area. Despite this, the KMC had assigned the task of
garbage collection to a private party violating the
Clash of opinion
There are three types of residents in the
Thekkawatta area –a middle class Sinhalese community
and the lower middle Tamil community who were
settled in the area following 1993 floods in Kandy.
Majority of them are from Bogambara and at the
moment willing to move out of the land provided that
they are given better shelter elsewhere. The other
group is those who were originally from the area
whose lives revolve around the garbage dump and are
simply in love with the waste site.
Mrs. Pussawela who is in her mid sixties told The
Nation that even though they are willing to move out
the process is getting delayed as a section of
residents are not willing to go.
“This place was not like this earlier. Though the
garbage dump was there it was only restricted to a
specific corner. Now they are dumping garbage
everywhere and have basically filled the playground.
They even drop garbage at our doorsteps and along
the road. Walking out on rainy days is simply a
nightmare as the condition of the roads around has
gone to the dogs with tractors and trucks coming in
every five minutes,” she lamented.
Many others expressed the same view.
“They, the original settlers are obviously
oblivious to the terrible impact posed by the
garbage dump and only worry about the money they can
make from this. They are in love with the waste site
as they collect the polythene and plastic fetching
them the rupees and cents. They maintain a monopoly
and make sure that outsiders do not enter the site,”
Rasaiyah, a labourer, said.
to that segment of inhabitants was a trying chore.
They gave The Nation the cold shoulder when we tried
to rushing inside their houses and locking
themselves up. An elderly man walked out of a house
after about 45 minutes wait. “We have no problem
here. No mosquitoes, no flies, no diseases or any
other problem,” he lied even before we could ask him
As Rasaiyah correctly said they let their cattle
wander in the garbage dump as they do not have to
worry about feeding them.
“The pigs, goats and even cows eat anything and
everything in the garbage site. They consume
polythene in large quantities. They even dump
hospital waste here including throwaways from
hospital morgues,” he said.
According to a study conducted by the Peradeniya
University, the dump site is not adequate to take in
the intake causing a spillover. A failed leachate
treatment system further compounded matters. Large
quantities of polythene and plastic had resultantly
led to foul liquids spreading all over the place.
Since the boundary fence is broken, animals and
birds feed on the garbage scattering the waste and
the path to the site is muddy during rainy seasons.
Neither can vehicles enter the site. The study
report also states that the site was being used
despite exceeding its life span.
Rainfall infiltration is high in the deposited
waste due to lack of soil cover producing large
volumes of leachate which flows directly into the
nearby Mahawelli River without any treatment.
When contacted, the acting Mayor of Kandy, Suminda
Wickremesinghe said that all these families are
illegal occupants who needed to be removed.
“We are trying our best to give them a relief
even though it is not our responsibility. It is KMC
land and we occupied it for more than 100 years.
There was a court case against us and now it is
over. So, we are starting a project with another
company to produce bio gas from Gohagoda solid
waste,” he said.
He also noted that only 100 to 150 tonnes of garbage
is dumped at the site at present and that it will be
increased to 250 tonnes per day once the project was