Protecting citizens and the environment | Sunday Observer

Protecting citizens and the environment

A clean up in progress under the watchful eye of the Police
A clean up in progress under the watchful eye of the Police

On November 24, the Sri Lanka Police commenced an island wide environment protection program led by its Environment Protection Division. At the program launch held near the iconic Independence square premises, the then Police Spokesman SSP Ruwan Guansekara said that the Police had decided to deploy its officers attached to both the Environment Protection Division and the Environment Protection Units of Police Stations to monitor and supervise street cleaning while also carrying out detections of environmentally harmful acts, practices or places. He also revealed that the Division would be restructured to yield better results in the future. Nearly two weeks later the initiative continues.

Encouraged by the program initiated by the Police, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has also stepped up environment protection work as other government agencies including Municipal Councils across the country have joined to support the good cause. Busy cleaners and policemen attached to the environment protection units on the streets of Colombo have become a common sight throughout the day, the former sweeping and cleaning the streets under the vigilant eyes of the latter.

According to the Municipal Commissioner of the Colombo Municipal Council, Palitha Nanayakkara, the CMC had called for a meeting with all the stakeholders on November 27 to formulate a plan to ensure a cleaner Colombo. “We couldn’t be mere spectators and decided we must also be more proactive to support the program,” he said. It was not under a directive issued but the CMC’s own initiative, Nanayakkara clarifies.

Attending the meeting had been a number of other government agencies including the Urban Development Authority, Road Development Authority, Port Authority, Condominium Management Authority and even the Ceylon Electricity Board. Nanayakkara says it was important to discuss with a number of agencies as the CMC was not responsible to ensure the cleanliness of certain areas in Colombo.

“People often blame the CMC for garbage and cleanliness of certain areas when in reality that responsibility falls on a different authority,” he said. Explaining further Nanayakkara said the Baseline Road for example is the responsibility of the RDA and not the CMC. “Therefore we had to discuss with these agencies and request them to ensure that their areas are maintained keeping in line with the new program,” he added.

According to the CMC Commissioner, a number of key decisions were taken on the day including introducing new times for street cleaning and garbage collection. “We now begin street cleaning at 5.30 am while the garbage collection is done at 6.30am,” he said. Nayakkara says in the last two weeks the new times have proved successful. “Earlier garbage collection was done at a later time and we had to face a number of obstacles,” he said, including traffic congestion. However, Nanayakkara stresses that the CMC continues to only accept segregated garbage and there is no change in the collection dates allocated to each type of waste. Also taking into consideration the inundation of roads after heavy rains, Nanayakkara says the CMC has organised a clean up project over the weekend to clear the drainage systems of the Colombo North region. “People often discard garbage to these drains which causes blocks leading to the roads becoming inundated” he said. “Sometimes we even find people have thrown clothes into these drains” he added. While an initiative to provide street cleaners and garbage collectors with more gloves and shoes to protect their health is also on the cards, the Commissioner also revealed that the CMC is now in the process of formulating a new policy framework to reduce the production of garbage. “We expect this would lead to reducing the cost the CMC allocates for cleaning and garbage collecting which will also be better for the environment in the long run,” he added.

Meanwhile, being one of the main agencies leading the charge to ensure a cleaner Sri Lanka the Police is also expected to increase the number of officers attached to the Environment Protection Units scattered across the country. Currently, each unit assigned to a Police stations consists of around five policemen. “Instructions have been given to increase the numbers” a source from the Police confirmed. (MB)

Pic : Rukmal Gamage