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After the dust of piety settled

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Just as it is typical of Sri Lankans to not use the zebra crossing to cross the road or of all the men to jostle into the bus or train while the women are left standing, it is typical of Sri Lankans to litter where ever they go.

Special cleaning crews had to be deployed to clean up after the dust of piety settled over the Galle Face Green, with the winding up of Mass conducted by Pope Francis. “Rubbish littered the entire area and surrounding roads,” reports The Nation journalists, Sandun Jayawardana and Maneshka Borham.

Over half a million people flocked to Galle Face Green to be a part of the Holy Mass and the canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz as Sri Lanka’s first ever saint, by Pope Francis. For the thousands, including over 1,000 Indians who had flown in from St Joseph Vaz’s birthplace in Goa, to attend Mass conducted by the Pope himself, was perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity.

Which is why it is all the more puzzling that people who take part in these religious events, be it Catholic, Buddhist or otherwise are driven by a compulsive urge to litter. Even Kataragama Pada Yatra seems to have lost some of its sacredness as the pilgrims bring in their wake unruly behavior, garbage and pollution. It’s the same sad story with Temple of Tooth, Madhu Church, Katharagama and Nallur, the most common pollutants being plastic and polythene.

One woman’s statement, “It is not a question of having enough garbage bins. Our people will litter no matter what,” just about sums it up. It’s just like Sri Lankans to litter. You can no longer blame it on lack of awareness. Time and time again authorities have attempted to coax the general public into taking up garbage segregation methods, introducing multicolored bins and bags, to no avail.

Would a fine for not segregating garbage or a regulation that unsorted garbage would not be collected solve the problem? Even if garbage is segregated at household level garbage collectors pay no heed to colors. They dump all garbage with blatant disregard to proper segregation methods. Residents often complain that there is no point in segregating garbage if all garbage ends up in some landfill or garbage dump.

It is hard to believe that Sri Lankans who are so adept of segregation at racial and religious levels are incapable of segregating their own garbage.

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