Mounting garbage: Segregation the answer to all efforts | Sunday Observer

Mounting garbage: Segregation the answer to all efforts

President Maithripala Sirisena launched the waste segregation program at his official residence on Tuesday, November 1. Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha, Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka, Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka, Provincial Councils and Local Government State Minister Piyankara Jayarathna were also present

Sri Lanka, a country on the fast track of development, after the end of the three decade long conflict, has been confronted with many challenges in its effort to make the country attractive for its citizens and to the international community especially, investors and tourists. The issue of garbage has become a stumbling block in this effort as it has created so many conflicts between the city administrators and the general public.

Due to the garbage issue, when a part of the city gets beautified and made attractive, another part, and the people living there have to bear the burden of city beautification programs, having had to live with mountains of garbage in their surroundings, while facing a lot of health hazards.

The absence of a concerted effort to address the issue, as a nation, aggravated it further, creating more and more environmental, health and social problems to the country.

Local Government authorities responsible for handling the garbage issue at local authority level, are confronted with many problems as they had no proper guidelines or resources to handle the issue properly. Even the LG bodies blessed with resources and financial strength too find it difficult to handle, as they did not have lands to dump the garbage daily collected from their areas.

The history behind attempts to solve the garbage issue, very clearly shows that all attempts had failed as they had not addressed the root cause of the problem. Non segregation of garbage collected at residential level had made their efforts futile, costly and non-implementable.

The mountain of garbage in Bloemandhal and now another mountain in Meethotamulla have resulted due to not addressing the root cause of the problem.

The Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry, which is in charge of all 335 LG bodies took one step ahead in its effort to address the garbage issue by launching a program to collect only segregated garbage from residences in all 23 Municipal Councils areas in the country.

According to Kamal Pathmasiri, Secretary to the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government, the Ministry that linked all LG bodies in this effort, along with other stakeholders, initiated this program as a result of the commitment Sri Lanka made in 2015 by signing the Paris Agreement.

President Maithripala Sirisena as Minister of Environment signed this Agreement that sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming.

The signatories to the Paris Agreement were asked to prepare an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution plan detailing a plan on how to mitigate CO2 emission.

Accordingly, President Maitiripala Sirisena, submitted the Cabinet paper and explained how to reduce the emission of green house gas emission in Sri Lanka by 2020, Kamal Pathmasri explained the background behind the move.

The plan divided the strategy mainly into six sectors, namely, Power and Energy, Transport, Industries, Agriculture and Livestock, Urbanisation and Waste Management.

To address waste management issues two committees, namely, the Waste Management Advisory Committee Chaired by Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Faiszer Musthapha, Environment Deputy Minister and Provincial Council Chief Ministers and relevant authorities; and the Planning and Monitoring Committee chaired by Secretary to the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government, and Secretaries of the Chief Ministries of the Provincial Councils, Head of the Central Environment Authority, Head of the National Physical Planning Department, Waste Management Authority representatives of the Ministry of Environment, Deans of the Engineering Faculties of the Universities of Moratuwa and Peradeniya, and Local Government Commissioners in the nine Provinces have been appointed.

The Planning and Monitoring Committee met several times and developed that Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs)for the waste management sector.

“Our main aim is to upgrade our Waste Management Policy. Now that we have a policy, we have to fine tune it to suit the present context. We are in the process of doing that. In addition, we propose to develop nine master plans for each waste management sector in the provinces”, he added.

“Our main strategy is to give an integrated solution within the provinces. Some solutions, for instance, sanitary landfills which is very costly, can be shared by five or six local authorities to dispose their garbage and maintain it properly. We can reduce the cost and also have an efficient service through them”, he added.

“By using the bio degradable waste, which is the main raw material for composting, we can solve much of the problem. But, without segregation of waste we cannot go for composting as it affects the quality of the compost fertilizer that we produce”, Pathmasiri added.

As a solution, the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry started the segregation of waste only in Municipal Councils.

“If we start this program in every LG Authority we cannot monitor each and every local authority. As a first step, we identified the Municipal Councils because it has become a complex problem for the Municipal Councils at present”, he added.

“From this we have learn about segregation as we call for a report from every MC and discuss the issues. Only then can we identify how to move to the Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas”, he said.

The committee has identified this as the only way of managing the solid waste problem in the country.

“For this we need a proper mechanism. The earlier attempts by some LG bodies failed as such a mechanism was not developed”, the Secretary added.

At this committee all MCs will be provided expert knowledge on how to segregate the waste and the steps to be taken with the segregated waste at the next step. According to Kamal Pathmasiri, there is a huge response from the private sector, as they can collect non degradable waste such as, polythene, plastic, metals and other useful material from the households itself.

“First, we have to arrange a private public partnership. We cannot do it immediately, because they don’t have networks countrywide. In the first few months they can find out how many kilos of the items could be collected from each city and then start branch offices in the periphery. That is the way to go step by step”, he added.

“That way we can solve the issues relating to non degradable solid waste with private sector participation. The households too can earn an income from this,” he added.

Once the segregated waste is collected the issue relating to composting will also be solved.

“We can start composting plants not in the mega cities but in the peripheries and we have good technology for composting, as institutions like the Land Reclamation Board has come forward to start a program on how to improve the quality of the compost fertilizer after collecting them from the LG authorities”, he added. He said, in addition to composting, bio gas also can be produced by using bio-degradable waste as it can be used as a source of heating. He said, awareness campaigns regarding segregation of waste, e.g. collecting glass, cardboard, plastic and other bio-degradable waste have already been carried out and Municipal Council authorities have been enlightened on how to enforce the by-laws of the MCs to implement the program.

In terms of Section 272(5) of the Municipal Councils’ Ordinance, the MCs hold power to enact by-laws in relation to health and safety. At present, all MCs have enacted by-laws on health and safety on which basis garbage disposal and collection take place, the provisions of which also call for segregation of waste.

In addition, the Environment Police have powers to act on the offender violating laws regarding waste disposal. According to section 261 of the Penal Code on public nuisance, any act that can be constructed as causing public nuisance is a punishable offence. Inspector General of Police has taken this issue seriously and will act strictly against those who violate the laws.

“But, I don’t think we can do everything by using laws. It is through awareness only that we can make the program a success because this is not a problem of an individual. It is a problem of all, each and every person in society has the responsibility to fulfil the duty to make it a success”, he said.