Man Made Tragedies: The Garbage : Is there a way out.
Posted on May 16th, 2017

Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. Michigan State University Former Government Agent, Matara District.


The Garbage Disaster

The garbage pile at Meetotamulla erupted, took the lives of 32 or more and we are in complacency- now, we are talking. There are piles of Garbage at various places and some authorities state that they will not explode.  I am certain that those authorities were well aware of the Meetotamulla Pile before it erupted.

There are accepted methods of turning the garbage into power, and these are being looked into but it  will definitely take time. In the manner we now act, it may take a few years to have those systems going.

In the meantime the piles that are already there are dangers and what about the daily intake of garbage, we do not know where to dump it!.

I managed my family farm- a small coconut acreage for five years and took great pains to dig trenches and fill them with dried leaves and foliage turning them into compost to be nutrients. Today in the heart of London my home garbage is buried and we apply a chemical powder to enhance the process of the garbage becoming compost. We collect the dried leaves and make compost- it takes a year or so and that too with adding chemicals.

I am certain that the garbage can be provided to coconut estate owners to be buried. Owners of coconut land find it difficult to find funds to buy manure. The crop is low and coconut pilfering is very widespread in small acreages. For this the coconut estate owners have to be asked to dig trenches- the depth and size to be decided by agriculturists and soil scientists, the owners have to get the trenches dug and shown to officialdom, then the garbage has to get sifted of extraneous matter- like iron, and non compostable materials. This sifting has to be done by the Local Authorities.  A payment is due for digging the trenches. Coconut estates too have to get paid. Compost enhancing chemicals have to be used.  I read somewhere that there is a dearth of labour for this task. It is a tedious process that people will not like to do and therefore the pay has to be commensurately high and gloves and masks have to be provided, with showers for the workers to bathe at the end of work. At Ambalantota Rice Mill,  I was bathed in dust many a day and so were all workers.

The application of compost is bound to increase the crop.

On a long term perspective  we can look into making power out of garbage. It is well known that the garbage of Rome is being freighted to Austria to be turned into power.

Already a cost of Rs 6 per kilo has been given to turn garbage into compost. It has also been mooted that rate payers will have to pay extra  for the collection of garbage.

This is a Disaster caused by inaction on the part of the Governments that ruled and therefore priority should be given to this over allocations to get down luxury vehicles  and importing luxury items.

It will even be a sound cause for printing money, a worthier cause than for buying dollars to prop the currency to provide luxury for the rich.

In the manner we have been running our country for the past decades since 1977, when we followed the IMF prescriptions in their infamous Structural Adjustment Programme

we have been advised by the IMF to spend – allow the rich to travel and even go on cruises and we were told to meet the deficit with loans ; the IMF has made us follow austerity for the people at large while for the rich everything is imported, luxury, eat-salmon from Norway, luxury bathtubs and toilets, go to Nawala and one can import anything- it will be in Sri Lanka in five weeks, but restrictions are there for the import of essentials for the masses. This process of the IMF running our country has made us indebted and even economist Nimal Sanderatne(Sunday Times) has now had to admit that the country is in a foreign debt trap as the Government must borrow  to meet annual debt repayments and interest obligations.” Again in his words, We have mismanaged our foreign borrowing by using a large amount of borrowed funds in unproductive infrastructure projects  and living beyond our means.”(SunTimes:23/04/2017)  My suggestion of printing money for this Garbage Cause is far more prudent than living beyond our means which was the IMF’s advice to spend dollars that we did not have and meet the deficit with loans.. That story of how the IMF made us indebted is fully given in my book: How the IMF sabotaged Third World Development: (Kindle:2017) Printing local currency will not increase our foreign debt

The remedy suggested of getting garbage sifted and the compostable garbage into coconut estates is the only immediately  workable method. It is a task that can be done within a week if we can get back to how we did work when we were in charge. Then it was some fifteen  Ministries and local Government Agents and they were all powerful- at times dictatorial but always in the interests of the common man. That was how Nissanka Wijeyratne created the New Town of Anuradhapura.  One telephone call for approval to Colombo and we get going, all hands to the deck. Did we not become self sufficient in rice by 1970. Sri Lankan scientists at  Batalagoda Farm were the first in the world to develop new varieties of high yielding rice. Did we not have self sufficiency in textiles through Powerlooms and Handlooms by the Sixties. That was the work of the Small Industries Department. Did we not control the prices of vegetables and fruits and did we not become self sufficient in jam, fruit juice and other food preparations all through the Marketing Department. There were no barriers to develeopment then– endless Ministries and local Councils.

Over to our leaders. May they give some thought to solve this problem. Today we have to live with the maladministration caused by the 13 th Amendment in the devolution of administration. However when national problems have to be tackled we have to ensure that stumbling blocks in administration have to be removed. Let this task get priority  before the death toll takes away more of our beloved population.

Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D. Michigan State University

Former Government Agent, Matara District.


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