Showdown building up over proposed sanitary landfill


By Ifham Nizam

Scientists, experts, environmentalists and concerned citizen groups yesterday stressed that they would join hands to take legal action against the government’s latest move to dump garbage at a site in Puttalam, which they claimed was paleodiversity haven in the country.

Paleontologist cum researcher, Kelum Manamendraarachchi told The Island that the sanitary landfill had been planned at a place full of Miocene fossils dating 23 million years before present (YBP).

He said that the cement industry was already exploiting the fossil bed. "It is high time that civic-minded officials rise up against it considering the future generation and those eager to study Miocene beds,"he added.

Central Environmental Authority (CEA), Director General Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma told The Island they would take all aspects into consideration after studying the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

He said that the EIA report was in its final stages. Environmental and social aspects would also be taken into consideration. "Mitigation aspect too would be taken into consideration," he stressed.

He also said that the country needed land to treat garbage deposits, which he termed a long term problem.

Environment Conservation Trust, Director Sajeewa Chamikara said that the area which was supposed to be used to create a sanitary landfill was full of Miocene deposits spreading across a large area. "Water deposited in the crevices of the Miocene deposit can become contaminated due to possible leakages caused by the waste used for the landfill which might contain chemicals and toxic waste from hospitals."

The Miocene deposits spread as far as Jaffna, Wilpattu and Mannar. "In time to come these areas may also be affected due to the proposed landfill," he stressed, adding that large water bodies such as the Kala Wewa might also be negatively affected.

He expressed his concerns over the transport of the waste. "If taken in open bogeys, it can litter and affect the areas the train goes through in various ways," he said.

He questioned the legality of allowing a private cement company to undertake the project. "The company has no legal authority to undertake such a project as the land where they plan to have the landfill does not belong to them and has been lent by the Forest Conservation Department," he said.

The government has assured that the project is an environmentally acceptable and economically feasible solution for the disposal of municipal solid waste in the Metro Colombo Region.

According to the proposal, a sanitary landfill will be constructed in Aruakkalu in the Puttalam District and solid waste will be transported by train from a Transfer Station at Meetotamulla. The proposed Sanitary Landfill to be constructed will be done in keeping with international standards, the government says. The project is expected to cost USD 107 million

The proposed Sanitary Landfill in Aruakkalu in the Puttalam District will cause no environmental harm as the state of the art sanitary landfill technology will be used, according to CEA Chairman D.W. Prathapasinghe.

He said the project had been proposed to bring about a durable solution to the solid waste problem in Colombo. In fact, it was a measure to protect the environment, he added.

The Cabinet last week approved the proposal to construct a sanitary landfill in Aruakkalu in the Puttalam District for dumping Municipal solid waste from the Metro Colombo Region.

The landfill will be constructed under the Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management Project.

The current collection of Solid Waste in the city of Colombo is about 700 MT a day and with that from other urbanised local authorities in the Metro Colombo Region, it amounts to about 1,200 MT a day.

The proposal to construct a sanitary land fill in Aruakkalu in Puttalam made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Defence and Urban Development Minister was approved by the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the private cement company which, the government says, has agreed to undertake the sanitary landfill project, denied outright that it had made any such proposal. The land earmarked for the project belonged to government-owned Sri Lanka Cement Corporation, a company official claimed.

President of pro-JVP Puttalam People’s Voice Association Samantha Koralearachchi said his organisation would vigorously oppose the project.


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