Excessive costs driving away carnival patrons | Sunday Observer

Excessive costs driving away carnival patrons

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For the children who visit Nuwara Eliya during the holiday season, the annual carnival tops the list of must-go destinations. For many years, it has been one of the main attractions in the town.

This year, with special arrangements made to streamline traffic and the flow of people to the town centre, the carnivals were held in areas next to Gregory’s Lake, and not in the grounds within the town.

About two weeks ago, when the Sunday Observer City Scape Team visited Nuwara Eliya, D.G.Dhanapala, from Getambe, Kandy, and his team of workers had started erecting their tents early in the morning, with merry-go-rounds, flying planes, bouncy castles and Ferris wheels, each of them putting the pieces together with caution. A lot of hard labour, pre planning, and inspection goes into putting up these individual game stations.

Dhanapala has been involved in the industry for over fifteen years now. Other than Nuwara Eliya, Dhanapala sets up carnivals around the Island including, Hingurakgoda and Colombo Parliament grounds.

“During April we always come to Nuwara Eliya as that is the peak where most number of people gather at one point. Usually, other places don’t attract such large crowds,” Dhanapala said.

According to Dhanapala, the Municipal Council had adopted a tender procedure, starting from this year, to issue permits for the land on which the tents come up.

“In previous years, we paid the Municipal Council a fixed amount for which the land was sub leased to us. However, this year it was different and we were required to submit a bid for the tender called. The amount payable was drastically increased by this,” Dhanapala explained.

The local authority only provides the space. Once the space is allocated, the service provider has the responsibility to get water, electricity, as well as insurance coverage for the event.

Kularathna, another carnival organizer, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years, has set up next to Gregory’s Lake and hopes that the rains will not be as bad as the last time, so that the people are not discouraged from participating.

“Even this year there was slight drizzling every now and then. However, it is not as bad compared to last year. If it rains hard no one would come to the carnival. Then, we run the risk of not being able to reach our targets.

However, he feels that bringing these carnivals away from the town was better, given the various practical difficulties, including parking and sanitation. This year, the intention of the authorities was to decentralize and minimize the concentration of people to one point within the city.

“By about April 15, there is hardly any space for parking and it becomes very difficult and frustrating if you are travelling in a vehicle, even to get to a short distance.” Kularathna said.

Despite paying large amounts to the Municipality to obtain the space and other amenities, Dhanapala complains that the Council also rakes in more money from the public.

“We have issued tickets for each individual game so that whoever wants to participate in it can purchase the ticket separately and go ahead to use it. The ticket prices with each game may vary between Rs 50 – 100. However, at the entrance to the ground where we have placed our carnivals, the Municipal Council issues another ticket, merely to enter the premise.”

The issue they see is that these actions will affect negatively on the visitors. The main group attracted is the mid income earners. Even though what is charged may be a nominal amount taxing them at every step of the way will definitely put them off from visiting the carnival. In spite of the income generated by the Municipal Council, minimal facilities were provided for the people. Sanitation, safety, and emergency responsive teams were some out of the list that was not to be seen.

When asked both carnival hosts about the safety precautions they have adopted, what they showed was that people are kept in places for safety purposes and that technical persons were available to attend to an emergency. However, there was a lack of providers of health emergency teams or even an ambulance, at the site.

“We must be encouraged and pushed forward to increase our potential, as well as introduce modern equipment rather than coming here every year with the same old devices. With time, there will not be many who would come to a carnival. So, it’s important that we don’t let this tradition move away but encourage and improve it.” Dhanapala said.