Move to dump garbage at Katunayake FTZ suspended, but we are watching: TU leader


by Sanath Nanayakkare

The possibility that the government would use a site at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone (FTZ) for dumping municipal garbage has been put on the back burner following the protests staged against it, but we are watching what could develop later, trade union leader Anton Marcus told The Island Financial Review Monday.

"One thing the policymakers should note is what the Katunayake FTZ currently needs is not distractions but attractions to help its sustenance and growth. There are 10,000 job vacancies in the Zone and the companies are struggling to fill these vacancies. If a garbage dump were to be set up there making the place less safe to work health-wise, existing workers would also leave their jobs".

"Our trade union has submitted a letter to President Maithripala Sirisena indicating our concerns that the Zone could be used as a garbage dumping yard and the logical reasons why it shouldn't be done. Now we hear that a Cabinet decision has been taken to nullify any such move, but our union members remain on the alert should there be any reversal of the decision," Anton Marcus said.

"We acknowledge the fact that municipal garbage has to be dumped at some site for proper waste management. We are aware that it is a broad national issue directly related to our environment as well as citizen-life. "But using a site at the Katunayake FTZ for this purpose would have a number of other repercussions. For example, our garment industry in the Zone would essentially have a negative impact on its business. The Zone's image for 'clean clothes' would be tarnished and imagine its impact on our apparel exports which bring the largest export income to the country".

"Not only apparel, all other export-oriented manufacturing would be negatively impacted by such a move because consumers in our export markets are always keen to learn about where the products they buy come from?"

The TU leader noted that municipal waste management is an issue both the government and the citizens should take collective responsibility for. "However, it's the government duty to take the lead and put necessary policy in place with plans and resources and technology to tackle it", he said.

Meanwhile, the recent business forum held on the theme, 'Creating the Right Climate for Foreign Investments in Sri Lanka' and the Export Development Board's export target of US $8.5 billion in apparel export earnings by 2020 are also worth pondering over at this juncture.

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