Friday, January 13, 2012

Clean up your Island first!

[This was received through email, addressed to all Sri Lankans]

I am a regular visitor to Sri Lanka and for the past 10 years I have enjoyed coming here for both work and leisure; currently I am here on holiday and have covered quite a sizeable chunk of the Island in my pursuit of the stunning landscapes and fascinating wildlife that Sri Lanka has to offer, but I now feel I need to criticise your attitude towards tourism. Firstly, why don’t you clean up your Island – it’s beautiful as nature intended, it doesn’t need pink and blue plastic lunch wraps, plastic bags, cans, rags and packaging strewn all over the beaches and carried wherever the wind or rain chooses. It looks so unsightly and the biggest culprits of disseminating the litter are the day trippers from Colombo and the big cities who come to spend a day on the beach with friends and family. Perhaps they should take their rubbish home with them or better still, decent rubbish bins should be provided and regularly cleared. Why are there large and small chunks of concrete rubble on walkways and beach paths each piece acting as a trap for more litter? In the West, garbage is big business. We spend billions on disposal of rubbish. Householders need to divide their garbage into three or four different containers, ready for re-cycling so we are very aware, we’ve been brainwashed and it offends. Do you really want to be known as a dirty Island? I am generalizing. Some areas are absolutely pristine, there is no trash anywhere, there is obviously a system in place in some areas; compare the popular beach of MIrissa which looks like a garbage dump (the locals should be ashamed of themselves), with the spotless main road past Unawatuna.

The other complaint is your dogs; I know I’m not the first, but is it really so difficult to keep your dog population healthy and happy? Nobody takes responsibility for the street dogs, but they do get fed and so enjoy a fairly happy and sociable existence, but why can’t there be regular neutering? Why do your dogs have to walk around with limps and mange? Why are they always scratching? You have no idea what a turn-off this is for the foreign tourist, who probably comes from a country where dogs enjoy the same medical perks as humans and irresponsible owners are taken to court - we do notice but we are polite and say nothing. There is no need for culling, just a realistic attitude to the status quo.

I usually travel with my partner or with a group of tourists but a few times recently I have been on my own and was unhappy about the number of men who approached me asking inane questions regarding my marital status and where I was staying, do Sri Lankan women have this experience? One of Sri Lanka’s big attractions for all visitors is the friendliness of the inhabitants - they make you feel welcome - but there is a fine line between friendliness and imposition.

On reading this, you may well say, well don’t come if you don’t like it. Of course that is true, but do you want more tourists or don’t you?

The decision is yours.

W. S. Bryden,