Waste dumping poses threat to Kelani Ganga


By Ifham Nizam

Illegal waste dumping, one of the most lucrative business, has once again commenced just 200 metres from the Kelani Ganga.

The Island visited the scene with a team of environmentalists of the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ). The Kotigawatte Wetlands in the boundaries of the Colombo District, home to a number species, particularly birds, butterflies, Fishing cats and crocodiles is now receiving some eight trucks of debris from the Ports City, and from other blue chip companies.

A businessman involved in sorting waste materials at the building sites told The Island that he had been doing it for more than five years, but they were forced to stop it due to underworld goons backed by the former regime, asking for ransom frequently. He said he had resumed work following the recent presidential election.

CEJ Policy Advocacy/ Campaign Officer Janaka Withanage said that despite numerous appeals state institutions such Urban Development Authority, Central Environmental Authority and others had failed to take any action against those who dump garbage at wetlands.

"These lands don’t have owners, and it is up to the state institutions to take them over, he added.

Wetlands are a distinct ecosystem. . Infilling, disposal of garbage, industrial waste water discharge are some of many threats to wetlands in and around Colombo.

Colombo has been recognised as the first South Asian RAMSAR Wetland City. United Nations Development Programme under its small grants programme (UNDP/GEF/SGP) has launched a special project to conserve the Colombo Wetlands. These marshy lands, helped retain rainwater during the monsoon season and prevented the city of Colombo being flooded.

Withanage said, "Wetlands still cover some 20 square kilometres of the Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR) and are approximately 15.4 per cent of the total CMR land area. But the current rate of wetland loss in the CMR is approximately 1.2 per cent per annum as 60 per cent of paddy lands across the wetlands of CMR may have been converted to non-wetland use since 1980.

"If this trend continues, the area of wetlands would be reduced by one third by 2038 and by half by 2070."

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