Massive Pollution in Yala
by Dushy Ranetunge at Yala Village
It was the long weekend at Yala Park and the word got out about the sighting of a leopard. The drivers scrambled and raced to the spot only to be confronted with a massive traffic jam, with about 30 Jeeps blocking the little dusty track in all directions. There was no movement, the leopard had long gone and as we sat and waited in the dusty jungle jam, we wondered if the leopard was watching the traffic jam from the jungle and giggling.
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With the prospect of watching leopard diminished, it was time to watch the humans.
The British are sticklers for queue etiquette and it was surprising that the Sri Lankans were by and large sticking to queue etiquette in the jungle at Yala. But it didn’t last long. One smart Alec decided to overtake the queue by moving two wheels of his jeep into the drain. After overtaking a few vehicles at a dangerous angle and getting stuck in the mud in the drain he had to reverse all the way back. The jeep had tourists and if it had toppled, it would have caused serious injury to the occupants.
In light of smart Alec trying to overtake the jam from the right, some others got into the act from the left side, including a vehicle carrying Mr junior Cummings generators. They didn’t get far and the leopards by this time would have been howling with laughter.
In order to avoid the stampede, we decided to enter Yala block 2 the following day. It lies between the Menik Ganga and the Kumbukkan Oya. Not many humans venture this far.
Rajapakse has not yet concreted the roads here and they are not wide either like the aircraft landing size tarmac at Sooriyawewa, built to transport three wheelers and carts of the Hambanthota folk who have “great expectations” of going “back to the future”. That’s the silk route.
We grew up in Sri Lanka with everyone talking about Trincomalee and how the Americans and the rest of the world were lining up to get their foot into Trincomalee. I am glad that the next generation will not grow up on a diet of Trincomalee. They can grow up on a diet of Hambanthota now that they have grown from the gushing oil wells of the Mannar basin.
You need to hire two jeeps with cables to gain entry to block two and it’s a whole day affair getting stuck in mud no less than five times and on some occasions pretty serious with no trees for shade from the hot sun. It was however a thrilling adventure.
The cost of hire of two jeeps ranged from Rs 40,000 to Rs.24,000 and we realised that it was worth it, considering all the pools of mud that we got stuck in and the cable used to drag the other vehicle out. We were one with the buffaloes wallowing in the mud.
Block two at Yala does not have as many animals as block one, but the ones we saw were physically much larger than the animals in block one.
But, what was most disturbing was the thousands of plastic bags, plastic bottles, biscuit and drinks wrappers thrown all over the Yala Park at block two. There were entire sections where all the short bushes had plastic bags stuck and rustling in the wind.
We were told that the pilgrims who walk to Kataragama through this forest during the festive season have left these behind.
Tamils in Jaffna complain that Sinhalese visitors to Jaffna are polluting the peninsula with plastic bottles and bags etc, but a mirror image of this pollution is taking place in the Deep South, where predominantly Tamil pilgrims are polluting Yala national park with their rubbish.
This culture of polluting needs to be addressed by the authorities by awareness campaigns and prosecutions, especially if Sri Lanka wants to boost its tourism industry to cater to the $200 a night clientele.