Sound pollution, a main environment issue:
Days are numbered for noise polluters - CEA Chairman
Motor vehicles are the dominant source of
noise pollution in any country. In Sri Lanka the public transport sector
is the worst sound pollutant. With the news of new laws in the pipeline,
bus drivers have already imposed self restraint. We don’t hear blaring
horns of private buses too often now. This is a positive development.
With the rapid development taking place in towns and villages, major
roads have been built right across residential areas. Therefore noise
pollution due to vehicles has become a major issue. The other category,
public noise pollution, under which the musical shows, festivals and
ceremonies at religious places cannot be addressed due to a court case
that overruled the CEA regulations. We prohibited the use of
loudspeakers and other devices that create public disturbance after
10pm, but following the court ruling we are compelled to find
alternative means to address this issue.
Central Environment Authority (CEA) Chairman Charitha Herath says the
police will be provided with hand held sound meters shortly to nab
vehicle drivers violating sound pollution laws. Adding that the Motor
Traffic Act will be amended to accommodate the new legal provisions of
noise pollution, he says the public transport sector is the main noise
polluter in the country.
Following is the text of the interview the Sunday Observer had with
CEA Chairman Charitha Herath.
Q: The Central Environment Authority last December gazetted
new laws to prevent vehicle noise pollution. Does that mean the police
can take action against the violators in the future?
A: Sound pollution is one of the main issues that we need to
address when Sri Lanks’s environment issues are concerned. As far as
noise pollution is concerned we are in a better place compared to other
countries in the region.
There was absolutely no legal provision to prevent noise pollution
until these new laws were enacted and gazetted in December 2011 by the
CEA. Earlier, the sound restrictions were imposed near selected places
like hospitals, schools, religious places and Courts, etc.
We identify three categories of sound pollution; industrial, vehicle
and public noise pollution. The industrial noise pollution factor was
addressed by a regulation enforced by the CEA earlier.
Now it is functioning. We have begun issuing licenses to industries
and the sound pollution factor is covered in this licensing process.
Vehicle noise pollution is the second area that we are currently in the
process of regulating. We gazetted the criteria that concerns vehicle
horns. The CEA has begun training traffic police personnel and motor
traffic department officers on how to enforce the law.
The discussions are on as to how the Motor Traffic Act should be
amended to accommodate the new regualtions.
Then the police department will be in a position to take action. We
have already announced the legal parameters and the sound limits a
vehicle horn is allowed to make. The fines and other related issues will
be handled by the above two departments.
Police and Motor traffic officials will enforce the law thereafter.
The CEA is hoping to bring down and distribute special hand held units -
‘a sound level meter’, to measure the noise. In the near future traffic
cops will be seen carrying these units on the road to test the sounds of
vehicle horns and may be the burglar alarms.
Q: How do you test if the vehicle is emenating a sound that
infringes the law?
A: The vehcile’s horn will be tested at 7 metre and 2m
distance using this device to check if the vehcile is emanating more
noise than the CEA permissible limit. According to the gazette, the
noise of a vehicle horn should not exceed 105 decibels at a distance of
2m and 93 decibles at a distance of 7m. Most of the vehicles, especially
lorries and buses may have to replace their blaring horns when the law
is put in place.
Q: Has there been any discussion on the environment impact to
Sri Lanka by the Nuclear plant that is being built in Tamil Nadu, apart
from the nuclear threat itself?
A: The Atomic Energy Authority should take the leading role in
I have already raised it with them. I had a meeting with Minister of
Power and Energy Patali Champika. He said that they are working on the
matter and a report will be available to us.
We will decide on our actions based on that report. We cannot condemn
if a country wants to develop their nuclear capacity for civilian
purposes like power generation. India has a right to do so.
But we have to look into certain aspects that concern the safety of
the country and its people.
If there is an accident at the nuclear plant, we need to measure the
impact to Sri Lanka as a whole. As you know, this Kundankulam plant
constructed in Tamil Nadu is much closer to the shores of Sri Lanka than
to India’s capital New Delhi.
Q: Any plans to permit nuclear power generation in Sri Lanka
in the near future?
A: There was a newspaper report this week quoting the Power
and Energy Minister. But there has been no requests to this effect so
far, as far as I am concerned.
Although the CEA is responsible for the protection of environment,
this is largely a matter for the Atomic Energy Authority.
The CEA agrees as a principle, the idea of using nuclear energy for
However, as a small and strategically important state, we need to
evaluate a lot of areas before going for nuclear energy. We must not
create avenues for the international community to interfere in internal
affairs of our country and this issue I believe, if not handled
cautiously, will given them that impetus... the best example is Iran.
Q: When will the solid waste power plant in Meethotamulla,
which was proposed as a solution to the waste disposal crisis in Colombo
A: It is a plant run by private parties to generate energy
using solid waste. They have submitted an EIA report and at the moment,
we are evaluating this report. The first meeting of the technical
committee was held recently and almost all the government agencies
concerned attended the meeting. Under the project, the company is to
receive 700 Mt of solid waste per day to generate power. Colombo
Municipal Council agreed if CEA permits the project; they will supply
solid waste for the plant.
The Supreme Court also gave a ruling for the Colombo Municipal
Council to work out a plan to get a proper disposal facility. This plant
is one of their suggestions.
The project is between the CMC and the private company. The land will
be provided by the Urban Development Authority. We are currently
evaluating the environmental impact. If the impact is minimal, the
project could go ahead.
Q: Are you satisfied with the Colombo Municipal Council’s
current waste management policy?
A: The CMC should take effective measures to manage their
waste. What they have done is completely unacceptable. First, they
started open dumping in Bloemendhal.
Then, they moved elsewhere leaving a stinking mountain of garbage.
This Meethotamulla land was allocated as a short term solution, until
the CMC worked out a permanent solution. But they continued dumping at
Then a land in Karadiyana, an environmentally sensitive place close
to Bolgoda Lake was chosen. That was acquired not by CMC but private
waste disposal contractors working for them. Karadiyana has also become
a great big dump yard now.
It is high time that CMC set up a research and development fund to
hire scientific expertise in waste management.
This should be one of their top priorities.
The Colombo metropolitan area generates nearly 1,200 tons of waste
per day. It is not a simple task.
The CMC charges property tax from residents in Colombo.
hese funds should be utilised to find professional means to the
problem. We cannot allow the CMC to continue this open dumping in other
people’s territory, they must find alternative ways.
Meethotamulla is in Konlonnawa Pradeshiya Sabha and Karadiyana
belongs to the Boralesgamuwa PS.
Q: With the Rio Earth summit coming up, what are the plans to
reduce our carbon footprint and prevent climate change?
A: The topic of the theme of World Environmental Day this year
is Green Economy, We are also making plans to motivate and encourage
green businesses, environmentally friendly industries and green
Under the program it is targeted to minimise the exploitation of
natural resources and enhance recycling facilities for used items.
Plastic and polythene are alternatives for environmentally related
products, but their excessive production can harm the environment, so
recycled use of these products will be promoted.
We will be creating awareness among people to get the used products
back to the recycling process. Already recycling plastic products and
glass are fairly popular in Sri Lanka.
However, the industry of recycling has yet to be a popular business
in Sri Lanka.
We hardly see any new initiatives by investors. We want the business
community to develop an interest in this area. A private sector company
commissioned a bulk recycling plant last year. This is a very good
initiative. We are looking forward to promote such investments within
the year of ‘Green Economy’.
Q: But the electronic waste disposal mechanism set up recently
seem to have gained recognition among the masses?
A: The CEA along with private sector stake holders launched
this program last year. Electronic devises have replaced many industrial
items and household items.
It is a hazardous waste. We cannot send them to open dumping yards.
The recyclers of electronic waste are sending them out of the country.
In a short span it has become a highly lucrative business.