Is Karadiyana doomed to become another Meethotamulla?


The suffering of people, living in Karadiyana, increases with each passing day, as they have to live beside a mountain of garbage, which continues to grow daily. Living in the vicinity of the huge waste dump, we see an average of 400-500 tons of garbage, equivalent to approximately 120 truckloads dumped there. The obvious environment hazards of open dumping of such amounts of garbage are evident in the area––an unbearable stench coupled with upper respiratory tract ailments and skin diseases. The ever expanding garbage site blocks the streams that help drain storm water. The entire area gets inundated as a result. This leads to the spread of illnesses such as dengue and both adults and children regularly fall sick. The problem has assumed such a proportion that the affluent people have begun to leave the area.

The Karadiyana garbage site was set up decades after we had settled in areas around it. Over the years it caused environmental degradation and affected the lives of the people. The government keeps saying that converting waste into energy is the durable solution; it finally came up with a project, backed by a reputed private organisation, as a way out. In August 2017, the ground breaking ceremony to launch the waste-to-energy project took place with the attendance of President Maithripala Sirisena, Chief Minister of Western Province Isura Devapriya, Cabinet Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka, Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Development Dr. Harsha De Silva and several other VVIPs. We were told that the project would be completed within 18 months. However, nothing has happened ‘above the ground’ to date and we, as villagers of Karadiyana are worried about our health and safety. We find it hard to understand why there should be a prolonged delay in completing the project.

We have continuously raised our concerns at the so-called review meetings, held monthly with the attendance of the Government Agent, divisional secretariat officials, representatives of the village committees and the waste management officials. It has been communicated to us that the process is at a standstill mainly due to the lack of commitment from the government.

The Karadiyana Waste to Energy project, as its name suggests, is expected to transform waste to electric energy. Power generated there has to be purchased by the government. Sadly, we are told that the government has not yet agreed to purchase the power to be generated and this has caused the delay in the completion of the project.

The review committee has also received a report, which warns of continued dumping of garbage, resulting in an unstable situation that can lead to a calamity.

We feel that Karadiyana cannot continue to receive garbage at the current rate.

The previously closed landfill at Karadiyana was re-opened to receive waste after the project was initiated adjacent to the operating landfill at that time. We are totally in support of the Waste to Energy project as we understand that it will be a solution to the problem. But, we have a right to know why the government has not yet completed that project.

Reports indicate that the slopes of the garbage mountain are unstable and that further accumulation of waste can result in a collapse of the landfill. We do not want to witness a repeat of Meethotamulla, at Karadiyana. We demand to know why the officials, including the ministers of the government, have wasted six out of the 18 months allocated for the completion of the project.

We understand that the project developer has initiated the work and has invested a large sum of money, but is not keen to go ahead due to the absence of a power purchase agreement. We strongly appeal to the relevant persons and authorities to wake up and take action before another disaster strikes.

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