Mounting garbage a problem as pilgrims flock to sacred cities


In the wake of the ongoing annual Kataragama Esela Festival, environmentalists and officials have called upon pilgrims to be mindful of not polluting the sacred city with garbage.

A Monkey in search of food at a Garbage Dump

Anything for me? A monkey in a garbage bin full of polythene bags

Shasheendra Rajapakse, the Kataragama Basnayake Nilame told the media that the festival that started on August 7 and continued till the 20th annually attracts thousands of pilgrims. He said although additional garbage bins are placed in many places pilgrims dump their food and the more harmful non-biodegradable polythene bags wherever they want, even into the Menik Ganga.

He said, about 50,000 pilgrims are expected for this year’s traditional ‘pada yatra’ where pilgrims from the north and east cross the Yala National Park to worship at the Kataragama Devale. He said the park tracks were being polluted.

About 900 kg of polythene was collected in the Kumana area in a programme conducted by the Young Zoologists’ Association last year its president Sachindra Deepankara said. The team had distributed cloth bags among pilgrims as an alternative to polythene bags.

Cleaning operation at A'pura in action at A'pura

Cleaning operation at A’pura organized by WildReach

The problem of pilgrims dumping garbage is not only peculiar to Kataragama. Other sacred areas too are facing the same problem, Sunil Gunathilake, who has been in Polonnaruwa for over 30 years studying the primates said. “Polonnaruwa is protected by 2 Acts – Archaeological and Wildlife – but it is sad that no meaningful effort has been taken to prevent pilgrims dumping their polythene. He further said the monkeys at least were intelligent enough not to eat it.

Meanwhile a two-day Shramadana was conducted last week by the WildReach Environment Trust in Anuradhapura. About 1000 kg of garbage spread over an area of 800 acres in ‘Mahamewuna Uyana’ had been collected. The trust’s chairman Nilupul Rangana said in some instances the matter was made worse by monkeys who rummaged open garbage bins in search of food, with polythene bags being scattered in areas that were sometimes inaccessible.

Before - then - After

WildReach Volunteers with collected non-biodigradable left overs by Pilgrims

Published on SundayTimes on 11.08.2013


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