Beira as Colombo’s ‘crowning glory’ | Sunday Observer

Beira as Colombo’s ‘crowning glory’

Could a ‘smelly eyesore’ where everybody disposes their waste into, be turned to the most valuable asset in the city? It is a dream, perhaps which could be turned into a reality. An active Beira is their dream, a clean city and a cleaner country is their vision. Now, the first steps are being taken to make this dream come true to make the vision a reality. An ambitious project to clean the Beira Lake perimeters will be carried out on Saturday 21, July organised by ‘NO KUNU’ an organisation dedicated to ‘build a system of civic engagement that will help Sri Lanka become the cleanest country in Asia.’

“Beira Lake is the most valuable asset for the residents of Colombo. Imagine an active Beira Lake, where you could engage in your favourite water sports, with lots of facilities such as restaurants and cafes and transport as well…” That’s what ‘No Kunu’ envisions – to clean up the Beira Lake and its feeder canals to make it more pleasurable and to convert it into the most useful asset within the Colombo city.

A very ambitious project of cleaning up the whole length of the Beira periphery (approximately 11.5 km), will take place on Saturday, July 21, starting at 8 a.m. in the morning as a public private partnership with the full support of the various private business establishments situated along the canal banks and surrounding the Beira Lake; and the relevant government authorities namely the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), Urban Development Authority (UDA), Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLRDC), the SL Navy, Ports Authority and the Police.

The effort is humongous. However, the response from both the private and the public sector establishments along the canal banks was “tremendous,” says ‘NO KUNU’ founder Sumi Moonesinghe. “Furthermore, we received full support from the Mayor of Colombo and the CMC staff; the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development; the UDA and the SLRDC.”

Volunteers from various business establishments both private and public would participate in cleaning the designated parts of the canal banks in their vicinity on Saturday. These teams would be supported by designated CMC officials, ‘NO KUNU’ team members, Navy and Environment Police officers. Furthermore, the Navy and SLRDC personnel would engage in cleaning the water surface of the canals as well as the lake. Tipper trucks and CMC and the Abans workers would be deployed to support these teams as and when necessary. The wind dried waste would be sent to the Kerawalapitiya garbage collection point. A special mention needs to be made of the UDA, said Moonesinghe, for allowing the non segregated garbage from the clean-up to be accepted free of charge at Kerawalapitiya.

Beira Lake plays an important role in the accreditation of Colombo as a World Wetland City under the Ramsar Convention. According to the final report of the Colombo Wetland Management Strategy of the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (2016), while the water quality is still bad due to nutrients the “new input of nitrogen and phosphorous from the catchment area and by the nutrient stock in sediment water,” the sediment also “contains medium to bad heavy metal contamination (in particular lead and zinc).” To restore the Beira Lake it proposes to decrease the discharge from the inlets; dredge the lake of sediment and thereafter the restoration; beautification and development process.

‘The initial effort taken on Saturday, would be a superficial cleaning,’ says Moonesinghe. Plans are underway by SLRDC for dredging and deeper cleaning of the Beira Lake and canals. Thereafter, a solution needs to be found for the problem of ‘illegal dumping of sewage’ opines Moonesinghe. “The cleaning is not sustainable until we find a lasting solution to the problem of illegal dumping of sewage in the canals. We need to seal off this sewage. This can only be done by the active involvement of relevant government authorities,” explains Moonesinghe.

She also sees the need to flush off Beira with sea water as was once done in 2002. “If all the luxury hotels and apartment complexes contribute in bearing the cost it could become a reality,” stresses Moonesinghe. After all, a clean and active Beira would not only provide and improve recreational enjoyment for Colombo city dwellers, but “improve occupancy rates at the five-star hotels surrounding it and enhance property values as well.”

Seeing the issue of garbage in the country “I didn’t want to complain, but wanted to embark on it,” says this septuagenarian engineer, who was spearheading ‘Anchor’ till 1996, the time the company changed ownership. ‘NO KUNU’s vision is to bring about a change for the better, one city at a time. It pledges “we will move from city to village, to beach, to forest and farm, from house to house and shop to shop and company by company. We will teach them how to separate their garbage, we will mobilise company work forces to help clean up our country. We will get 1500 business leaders to pledge to be guardians of our cities and mobilise their resources and work forces to help demonstrate, reiterate, clean up ,resource and monitor a programme to ‘Keep Colombo Clean First’ and then every city, river, beach and forest.”

Moonesinghe is flanked by her team of inspired, like minded people who treat their efforts as “pay-back” for all what the country had bestowed on them. They are intense, influential, determined and would leave no stone unturned until they achieve their goal. For, as the Brazilian poet, Mario de Andrade said, “I have no time for endless meetings where the statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that nothing will be done.

I no longer have the patience to stand absurd people who, despite their chronological age, have not grown up.

My time is too short: I want the essence, my spirit is in a hurry.

Yes, I’m in a hurry. I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.

We have two lives and the second begins when you realise you only have one!”

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