Tuesday, April 12, 2016



We have learned that the former Director General of the Wildlife Department has been removed as he was against dumping garbage in Arruwakkaru. We believe that he has done his duty as a responsible officer.  Undoubtedly dumping colombo garbage in Arruwakkalu is a wrong concept.
The proposed land for dumping Colombo Garbage is located about 170 km away form Colombo and within the  Weerakulicholei- Eluwankulam proposed forest reserve. It is a land that is leased by the Forest Department to Puttalam cement Corporation. Leasing out the said land to Holcim is already an illegal act. Similarly, dumping of garbage in the said land is also illegal.
The proposed project is for open dumping of 1200 tons of unsorted garbage collected from the CMC area daily in Arruwakkaru old limestone mine of the Puttalam cement plant. In our opinion, the project objective should be how better manage the metropolitan garbage and not how to deal with the Meethotamulla garbage dump. In such a case, there are many other alternatives to this project.  

Sri Lanka generates more than 3000 tons of garbage daily, which is not only polluting Meethotamulla, but also over 300 locations in the country. This needs a much more different waste management policy which include the principles of “avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle” and sanitary landfill as found in the other middle-income countries and developed countries. Such a policy should include, awareness, separation of garbage at the generation point, introduction of extended producer responsibility, introducing and establishing all possible recycling facilities etc. If government can introduce such a policy, Sri Lanka can easily adopt zero waste strategies.

The project is located within one mile of the Wilpattu National park. The Wilpattu National Park (WNP) is situated on the east of the landfill site at a distance of about 300 m. The establishment of the proposed landfill site in such a close vicinity to an important and popular National Park, which is also an International Ramsar Wetland Conservation site seems to be more problematic. It needs  permission from  the Director General of the Department of Wildlife. Therefore, considering the importance of this national park, Ramsar Wetland this project is not feasible.

Transporting the unsorted, Colombo waste problem 170 km away from the city is not a solution at all.  According to the EIA, with necessary compaction, this garbage will be transferred to 20 feet containers at Meethotamulla Transfer Station, and then those containers will be transported to Aruwakkalu by train, using the existing railway line from Kolonnawa to Aruwakkalu via Puttalam. The waste containers will be unloaded at Aruwakkalu unloading station and transferred to the landfill site. This project seriously needs a cost estimate and an extended cost benefit analysis. This EIA is lacking both of these analyses.

Normal train transport of goods are approximately Rs. 925 per kilometer for a wagon with 45 tonnes capacity.  This project will transport 1200 MT daily, which is approximately 27 wagons a day.  It will cost (Rs. 925 x 170 km x 27  wagons)which is Rs. 4,245,750 a day. Therefore, the transport cost along will be 1,550 million Rupees per year. The project developers have failed to study this factor and this is a clear abuse of the public funds. Further, Metropolitan garbage contains  highly recyclable material. Although we don’t have figures, we believe that the annual dumping will value few thousands of millions Rupees. Such a value only can be shown in an extended cost benefit analysis.

The Holcim quarry site is also noted for its archaeological significance, as it supports a fossil belt belonging to the Miocene period mostly found invertebrate fossils. According to Rajeeve Yapa and others, Sri Lanka’s northern Tertiary deposit is vast, composed of fossiliferous limestone that hosts fossils dating to the Miocene and late Pleistocene. Surveys by early explorers recovered fossils of both invertebrates and vertebrates, of which the latter are considered important because the earliest vertebrate fossils found in Sri Lanka date to the Miocene (Deraniyagala, (1969b). Holicim is already destroying this archeological museum by blasting the lime stone for cement industry.

The dumping of waste will be on the lime stone quarry mine with high permeability. The impermeable layer does not give a hundred present assurance of damage according to the EIA. It may brake due to the blasting in the Holcim mining site. Therefore, if the leachate leaked to the aquifer it will destroy the ground water table.  More importantly, Tabbowa- Wavathavillu aquifer which is the best and the largest fresh water aquifer in Sri Lanka will be under threat of contamination. The proposed project is fundamentally wrong approach to the sustainable waste management solution for Sri Lanka.  There is a high possibility of destroying the Arruwakkaru dumping site and the railroad from Kolonnawa to Arruwakkaru due to the leachate.

As we know the former UDA officer Rohan Senevirathne serving under then Secretary Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakshe insisted the EML consultant not to include any alternative  when producing the EIA.  We have learned that the original EIA has mentioned the possible alternatives to the problem. 

Mr. Prime Minister,

Colombo garbage can be easily handle if you involve the public who are responsible for generating garbage.  Introducing zero waste policies, Managing recycling industry, introducing Extended Producer Responsibility, banning polythene, you can reduce the garbage problem and save millions of public funds you will be dumping in Arruwakkalu and along the railway line. You must manage garbage within the city and please do not pollute remote wildlife parks or community lands. (END)

Saturday, April 09, 2016



Port City, Wilpattu, Uma Oya, Yan Oya, Dole banana, Rathupaswela,  Mini hydro and many other environmental controversies are roaming on main media, social media, environmental circles, political stage and even inside the close rooms of the government authorities at national and divisional level.  The agencies and the political authorities that should be giving solutions to  these problems play mediocre rather than resolving burning environmental controversies. The Central Environmental Authority lost its credibility over the past decade and have much weaker position in fulfilling its duties. 

Politicizing  the CEA  over the last two decades is a great environmental disaster in Sri Lanka.  This happen when Minister Champika Ranawaka appointed Mr.  Udaya Gammanpila, a politician as the CEA Chairperson.   Since then most Chaipersons and some time even the Director General have appointed with no environmental background but to play the role which the political authority ask them to play. While some of the actions taken are good, often they made wrong environmental decision  to satisfy the political leadership.

CEA was not a corrupted agency until very recent. But it is one of the corrupted agency now. The officers unofficially produce the EIA/IEEs and approve them  later. We have heard that some of the waterfalls have been removed from the Waterfalls list in order to allow damming them for mini hydro project.  Some of the projects that need to go through the EIAs are requested to do an IEEs, so that they can avoid public commenting period. Some industries get the EPL without much hassle. EIA technical committees even comprise EIA consultants. It has failed to manage the E-waste, or even garbage problem. Likewise CEA has failed to arrest the natural resources destruction, environmental pollution and  failed conservation of the nature.

Rathupaswela incident happen due to the lack of a timely response to the public voice. CEA failed to stop environmental disaster in Uma Oya  since the known technical problems were not addressed in the approval stage.  Moragahakanda, Yan Oya projects also happened since the CEA was serving the political needs rather than environmental conservation as one of the mandate given  by the National Environmental Act.

CEA is not the only agency responsible for current environmental controversies in Sri Lanka. Forest Department, Wildlife Department and number of other agencies with environmental conservation as part of its mandate are responsible for the current crisis. But CEA is the main agency among them whose mandate is managing the environment in coordination with others.CEA has failed to listen to the environmental community for a long time.  

Ministry of Environment  and the CEA currently comes under the President himself.  Therefore everyone thinks that environmental conservation is a top priority and it is safe. But many wrong environmental decisions have taken under this leadership.  Some says Prime Minister is responsible for those bad decisions. However, the CEA is the right body to advise the top political leadership on environment.  If they  are ignorant or unskilled, then we cannot blame the politicians. 

Sri Lanka’s much of the natural wealth which can decide the future of Sri Lanka is in the hands of the CEA. Foreign industrial investments certainly are not our future.   Undoubtedly, we need more straight environmental  leadership to fulfil the CEAs mandate. Putting right people in the conservation hot seats and  act as a real conservation agency is a need of the day.(END)

Friday, April 08, 2016



Colombo Port City is a clear case of the wrong policy of the past regime. Undoubtedly this is why the  Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe proclaimed  that he will scrap the Port City, once he come to power.  But he too is planning to go ahead without any changes, breaking the promises he made to the voters. Why this project is so powerful?
Undoubtedly the Colombo port city is feasible for China as its not a stand along project, but a strategic point of the China maritime Silk Route with One Road One belt strategy connecting Asia, Middle East and Europe. Its a business plan, political strategy and a security plan for China.

However, there is no study to prove that its feasible for Sri Lanka. It might suck the Sri Lankan economy and the  current business districts will become just down town. Those  medium and small businesses who are silent  on the Port City might be gone when they wake up.  Majority local businesses cannot afford to  have the properties in the Port City  according to the experts.

The government of Sri Lanka is dreaming about a  offshore financial market with the Port City. However Sri Lanka does not have regulations to govern the same. There is plenty of demand for gamblers  and fun seekers. This may be one way to  promote the proposed city.  The related social issues may be serious however, the main question we can raise today is whether this is environmentally feasible? 

This can be answered by reading the so called Environmental Impacts Assessment.  The Project will require 65 million cubic meters of sea sand and 3.45 million cubic meters of rock material.  Sea sand will be mining in more than 150 square kilo meter area between Colombo and Negombo up to the depth of 2 meters within a 3 year period.  Almost 15,000 fishermen depending on this fishing grounds.  Similarly , rock material will be transported from existing quarry sites in Kaduwela, Diviulapitya etc., and almost 3000  truck loads will hit the colombo traffic daily.  Most quarry sites already have social and environmental problems.  The EIA states that the project will relocate the operations in the Jaya Container terminal in the private terminals and sell the lands. This can be seen as a privatisation and selling public lands for outsiders. 

Chinese investors as well as certain politicians say that stopping the port city will loose USD 1.5 billion worth project.  However, they should aware that the sand and rock material they will be dumping to reclaim the sea is worth over USD 4 billion which own by the public in the country.  Under this agreement Sri Lanka do not get the equity for these natural resources.

Technically part of the project site  will be naturally filled with sea sand due to the obstruction of the sand movement by the South Harbour recently  completed without much public attention. Therefore it is safe to reclaim an area less than 100 hectares. But filling 269 hectares as proposed by the Chinese investor is detrimental to the coast and the fishermen livelihood. 

The proposed Magapolis plan to fill a small area for public recreation may be a more feasible project.  Yet the current regime is planning to sign the agreement with China to build the Colombo Port City as proposed by Chinese investor against the public wish is a failure of the Good Governance regime. 

The projects is funded by  the China Exim Bank , a loan given to the China Communication Construction Company(CCCC).  Sri Lanka is not responsible for this loan. The Sri Lankan counterpart of the port city is the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. It does not have a mandate to reclaim the ocean. Therefore, entering to an agreement with Chinese investor is a wrong act of the Ports authority. There is no reason to pay any cost to the Chinese investor for the delay or stopping the project when the agreement is illegal.

It is very much known that the EIA process conducted by the CCD and the concurrence approval given by the CEA is a fraud. CEA was forced to give the approval knowing that the CCD and the project developer failed to respond to the issues related to sand mining and others.  According to the Supplementary EIA, there is no adequate sand available in the proposed sites. Instead the SEIA propose to purchase sea sand from the SLRDC. The EIA for this purpose still not done. Therefore, CEA and CCD has no right to approve the project before this matter cleared.

These agencies have approved the project due to the strong political pressure.  It is better if the politicians with vested interest leave the  authorities to run an unbias EIA process. According to the Constitution article 27 (14) The State shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community. It is the duty of the Citizens to make sure  the elected regime is respecting to the Constitution. (END)