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Sri Lankan Catholics oppose dumping garbage in wetlands

Priests, nuns and laypeople rallied to defend Muthurajawela wetlands

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo

Published: May 02, 2017 02:53 AM GMT

Updated: May 02, 2017 02:54 AM GMT

Sri Lankan Catholics oppose dumping garbage in wetlands

A garbage dump near Colombo collapsed on April 12 resulting in at least 32 deaths and eight people missing. Garbage dumping is also a problem in Muthurajawela wetlands where Catholics have been protesting to save the marsh. (Photo by P. Pradeep)

Catholics organized two protest campaigns against dumping garbage in Muthurajawela wetlands, Sri Lanka's largest marsh that supports myriad species of flora, fauna and birds.

Catholics held a Mass, demonstrations and discussions with government officials to raise the issue of protecting the ecological asset, which is 30 kilometers north of Colombo.

"People are campaigning against dumping garbage at Muthurajawela wetland as it is a home to various species," said Father Dinush Gayan, assistant parish priest of St. Nicholas Church, Bopitiya.

The wetland acts as a natural hatchery, home to animals and controls floods by acting as a natural buffer zone.

"We held a Mass on April 26, two demonstrations on April 21-22, discussions with politicians, government officials and spoke to Colombo's municipal commissioner to try and stop garbage being dumped in the wetlands," said Father Gayan.

"Over 150 special task force police came to control the demonstrations and throw garbage forcefully into the wetland," said the priest.

"I was puzzled why government officials are allowing the wetland to be filled with garbage when it is so important," said Father Gayan.

The priest said that he explained to the Colombo municipal commissioner that the Muthurajawela wetlands were set aside as an environmental protection area by the government.

The wetland was declared a sanctuary due to its vast bio-diversity in 1996. It is situated at the most populated and economically important area of the island nation.

"Two priests, six nuns, a Buddhist monk and over 1,000 people demonstrated to protect the wetlands," said Holy Family Sister Rangika. 

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Catholics have been organizing the protest ever since a garbage dump collapsed there killing 32 people and damaged homes on April 14. Eight people remain missing.

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