On April 14, 2017, as Sri Lanka was celebrating local New Year’s Day, Sri Lankan lives were unnecessarily lost when a massive garbage dump collapsed, burying more than a hundred people alive and killing at least 28 so far. The death toll is expected to rise.
It is horrifying that those killed had to die like this. No one deserves to die like this. No one deserved to suffer as the residents of Meethotamulla had suffered when they were forced to live next to a garbage dump for years despite their strong opposition, and when their families and houses were buried with garbage they did not even make.
Stories of hundreds of people getting buried alive under a mountain of rubbish are not new. Just in March of this year, a landfill in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia collapsed, killing more than 115 people. At least 20 people suffered the same fate in 2016 in Guatemala; and in the Philippines in 2000, another garbage slide claimed more than 300 lives.
Indeed, we have heard one too many stories like this horrifying event in Sri Lanka. It is high time that we say, “Enough!” and make those responsible for the creation of these monstrous mountains be accountable.
Let us push harder for solutions to the world’s garbage woes that do not involve using communities as dumping grounds, especially communities that are often disenfranchised and voiceless. Zero Waste solutions which are safe and sustainable and create jobs and opportunities for many already exist. Let us push governments to do a better job of taking care of their citizenry and managing garbage problems better. Let us ensure that something like this never happens again.
Pratibha Sharma, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives India
Harshad Barde, KKPKP, India
Dr. Lubna Sarwath, Save Our Urban Lakes, India
Dunu Roy, Hazards Center Dehli
Shrada Shreyaya, Thanal, Kerala
Shibu Knair, Thanal, Kerala
CH Samuel Anyjumar, DBRC, India
Ransit Devra, Sukhdev Vihor, India
Rosham P. Rai, Zero Waste Himalayas
Dr. T Swaminathan
Sonia Mendoza, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines
Merci Ferrer, Friends of the Environment Negros Oriental, Philippines
Jane Bremmer, National Toxics Network, Australia
S.M. Mohamed Idris, President, Consumers’ Association of Penang, Malaysia
Mageswari Sangaralingam, Research Officer, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth, Malaysia)
Dr Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), New Delhi, India
Ram Charitra Sah, Executive Director, CEPHED, Nepal
Betty T. Cabazares, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Inc. Philippines
Fr. Max T. Abalos, SVD and Rhoy L. Dizon, ANCE, Inc. Philippines
Leah Primitiva G. Samaco-Paquiz, Representative, 16th Congress, ANG NARS Party-list, Philippines
Mi-Hwa KIM, Secretary General of Korea Zero Waste Movement Network, South Korea