Garbage disposal at Aruwakkalu, a hot mess | Sunday Observer

Garbage disposal at Aruwakkalu, a hot mess

Amidst an Appeal Court order to the heads of Wanathavilluwa Pradeshiya Sabha to allow the disposal of Colombo Municipal Council’s (CMC) garbage at the Aruwakkalu garbage dump without obstruction, its chairman vowed to “closely monitor the site”.

The CMC was forced to transport about 600MT of garbage (roughly 200MT of non-recyclable and 400MT degradable) to the Rs. 19 billion Aruwakkalu sanitary landfill site. Through a letter dated August 2 the Secretary to the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development (MOMWD) informed the CMC that it will not accept further dumping of ‘any type’ of garbage at the Kerawalapitiya site.

Earlier, on June 25 the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) (which falls under the purview of MOMWD, that manages the Kerawalapitiya site, which was used as a temporally dumping site following the collapse of the Meethotamulla garbage site in 2017), stopped accepting non-degradable waste at Kerawalapitiya.

The move came as the CMC was preparing to transport all of its garbage to a privately handled “waste to energy plant” by January next year. The CMC signed an agreement with the Western Power Company (which will operate the plant) that has promised to accommodate all of its solid waste collection.

On Thursday 14 tipper trucks transported CMC’s garbage to the Aruwakkalu sanitary landfill site. As of yesterday 30 trucks had transported garbage to the site.

Though the original project plan was to transport compacted garbage via a rail transfer facility that was to be set up in Kelaniya, authorities resolved to send the garbage in trucks.

“It cost about Rs. 45 million a month to transport the non-recyclable waste to Aruwakkalu alone. This process will only cost the country unnecessarily,” Chairman of the Standing Committee on Solid Waste at the CMC, Mahendra Silva said.

The cost to take the garbage in a truck to Aruwakkalu per day is estimated at Rs. 100,000. When the garbage was taken to the Kerawalapitiya site the cost was Rs. 50 to 60 million a month, says the Chairman, Silva.

In addition to this the Wanathavilluwa Pradeshiya Sabha has requested Rs. 3 million (later reduced to Rs. 2.5 million) to be paid as a ‘facilitation’ fee for using its roads to take the garbage to the Aruwakkalu site.

CMC is refusing to pay this amount to the Pradeshiya Sabha but is willing to pay the amount to MOMWD as the project owner. The issue is still pending as the MOMWD has insisted CMC deal instead with the Wanathavilluwa Pradeshiya Sabha.

“We have made the landfill according to required standards, and will continue to accept garbage at the site whenever it is brought,” Project Director of Western Region Solid Waste Management Project Sarath Bandara said.

He added that the agreement to pay the ‘accommodation fee’ to the Wanathavilluwa Pradeshiya Sabha needs to be handled by the CMC.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer Chairman of the Wanathavilluwa Pradeshiya Sabha Samantha Munasinghe said that the fee has to be charged from the CMC as it is using heavy vehicles to transport the garbage that will damage the roads in the area.

CMC’s Silva said they are holding discussions with the private garbage transporter who will bear the fee.

In addition, Munasinghe said that they will station two Pradeshiya Sabha officers at the Aruwakkalu site tomorrow (12) to monitor if the garbage is brought in a systematic manner.

“We have also requested to station a Public Health Inspector (PHI) at the site to see if the dispose is not hazardous to health,” he said adding that if they find any glitches they will take legal action against the CMC. Munasinghe said it is crucial to monitor the site for the sake of the residents in the area. From inception the project came under criticism from residents and environmental activists. On July 13 when the first garbage trucks arrived at the site, they were forced to turn back.

He said the main issue at the Aruwakkalu site is that it is not completely built. “Originally, the World Bank was to fund it but when the contract was awarded to a blacklisted Chinese company the World Bank pulled out and the government had to bear the full cost,” he said, adding the new move to take garbage to Aruwakkalu will cost the country unreasonably and also create environment hazards.

In this backdrop the CMC filed a petition at the Court of Appeal to allow the transportation of garbage, unobstructed, from Colombo to the Arruwakkalu site. The case will be taken up again on August 28.

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CA issues interim order to dispose garbage at Aruwakkalu

By Stanley Samarasinghe

The President of the Court of Appeal Justice Yasantha Kodagoda and Justice Arjun Obeysekara issued an interim order on the Chairman of the Wanathawilluwa Pradeshiya Sabha Samantha Munasinghe not to obstruct the dumping of garbage to the Aruwakkalu sanitary landfill.

Court issued this order after considering a petition filed by Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) stating that Munasinghe was not allowing them to dump garbage at the site. President’s Counsel Avindra Rodrigo appearing for the CMC and submitted to court that Munasinghe was demanding Rs. 4 million to allow the dumping of garbage but later reduced the amount to Rs. 2.5 million. Due to his action the Colombo City and its suburbs are facing health hazards, said the President Counsel.

He further said the CMC selected this place and prepared it for dumping of garbage in a manner that will not cause any health hazards to the people in the area. The court observed that CMC will follow all the conditions to avoid any health hazards and said the order is valid till August 28. The court also issued notice on respondents to be present in court on that day.

A former petition filed by residents in Aruwakkalu stating that the landfill is hazardous and called for its removal will also be taken up on August 28. Avindra Rodrigo appeared with Attorney-at-law Jerusha Crossette Thambiah.

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