Drowning in dross
The Meethotamulla waste dump continues to be a sore
topic for residents as authorities look for a viable and affordable
solution to the stinking mess:
The Meethotamulla waste dumping site, which has remained a stinking
issue for the residents for several years, has finally garnered the
attention of the authorities, following the assault on a group of
residents participating in a Satyagraha campaign to protest the dumping
of garbage in their backyard. But there doesn't seem to be any solution
in sight for the long suffering resident, forced to breathe in the reek
and contend with disease and sickness every waking hour.
The garbage issue has been a sour topic for the residents of this
Kolonnawa settlement, who have time and again staged various forms of
protests demanding the 16-acre garbage dump be removed and the Colombo
Municipal Council (CMC) stop dumping truck loads of stinking, reeking,
Until now, the CMC, which dumps several hundred tonnes of garbage at
the site on a daily basis, has literally turned a blind eye to the
health risks faced by the residents, especially the young, the weak and
the elderly. However, following the assault, allegedly perpetrated by
the Chairman of the Kolonnawa Urban Council, officials of the Colombo
Municipal Council and several Ministers have been visiting the site. But
resident don't see any solution to their plight in the foreseeable
Around 300 families have been forced to leave their homes and
resettle elsewhere to make way for the ever growing mountains of
garbage, while more 4,500 families who live there are exposed to
virulent diseases and skin disorders, making their life a daily
Environmental analysts say large quantities of leachate from the site
have severely polluted water bodies like the Kelani River, the main
source of water supply for Colombo District, and that severe ground
water pollution has also been observed in the area.
More than 700 tonnes of Colombo's garbage is dumped at this site by
the CMC on a daily basis, turning a blind eye to the plight of the
residents. Residents argue that no effort has been made to find a
permanent solution to the problem.
According to officials, the Meethotamulla waste dump site has been in
operation for the past 20 years and is presently owned by the Urban
Development Authority (UDA). The site was initially used by the
Kolonnawa Urban Council to dump the garbage collected from the Kolonnawa
Urban Council area.
Supreme Court directive
The CMC has been dumping garbage collected from around the Colombo
District at the Meethotamulla site since April 2009. This was done on a
directive from the Supreme Court, following the suspension of the
garbage dumping agreement the CMC had with a private owner of the
Bloemendhal dump. The site was given to the CMC by the UDA, making the
former responsible for manage it with minimal harm to the environment or
A panel of experts appointed by the Supreme Court outlined a set of
objective and evaluated and shortlisted the contractors eligible to
handle the garbage collected from the city for dumping at the
Meethotamulla site, but the objectives were never achieved.
The situation has resulted in a series of environmental issues and a
form of eviction that sees residents being forced to flee their homes to
make way for the ever increasing garbage mountains.
According to officials, although the Pilisaru Project of the Central
Environment Authority maintained a garbage sorting operation at the
Meethotamulla site, the daily load was way too large for the project to
have any impact. The site itself has expanded to 17 acres at present.
The UDA, which took over the handling of garbage, is considering a
proposal to transfer the garbage to the Aruwakkalu sanitary landfill by
rail, but it is to receive due approval from the authorities.
According to the proposed project, 1200 tons of solid waste collected
from the CMC area is to be compressed and loaded to 20-feet containers
at Meethotamulla Transfer Station, and transported to Aruwakkalu by
train, using the existing railway line from Kolonnawa to Aruwakkalu via
Puttalam. The waste containers are to be unloaded at the Aruwakkalu
unloading station and transferred to the sanitary landfill site.
However, while the proposal gathers dust in some high office, the
problem has now been shifted to a committee consisting of Secretaries to
the Ministries of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Mahaweli
Development and Environment, Megapolis and Western Region Development
and the Chief Secretary of the Western Provincial Council.
According to Kamal Pathmasiri, Secretary, Ministry of Provincial
Council and Local Government, the committee comprising Secretaries to
these Ministries had met on several occasions to discuss the issue and
had requested for proposals for a viable and affordable solution to the
"We have received over 60 proposals and a Technical Evaluation
Committee will consider these proposals to find an affordable solution
to the problem," he said, adding that the Aruwakkalu project proposal
was among those being considered and that report will be submitted soon
after considering all proposals.
Deputy Director of the Waste Management Authority (WMA) of the
Western Provincial Council, Nalin Mannaperuma, meanwhile acknowledged
that the dumping site at Meethotamulla has become a public nuisance to
the people living in the area and no solution has been found as
yet.Though a Waste to Energy project was proposed to handle the waste
collected, that proposal too is gathering dust, he claimed.
"What should happen there is to mitigate the environmental effects
from the site, and as the WMA in the Western Province, we are ready to
provide the necessary guidelines for the CMC to mitigate environmental
damage from the dumping site," he said.
He however pointed out what was noteworthy was that the relevant
agencies, the Mahaweli Development and Environment Ministry, Megapolis
and Western Region Development Ministry, Central Environment Authority,
Urban Development Authority, National Solid Waste Management Support
Centre of the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry are now
working hand in hand to find a solution to the problem.
Waste to energy
Mannaperuma said the WMA is planning to have in place three waste-
to-energy projects to handle the garbage issue in the metro Colombo
region. "We are planning to have waste to energy projects in Kaduwela,
Karadiyana and Muthurajawela to solve this issue.
Though one institution signed agreements with the WMA to have waste
to energy project in the Kaduwela Municipal Council and Karadiyana Waste
dumping site, that company failed to initiate the project,"
he pointed out. Now the WMA has again invited proposals from
investors to start this waste-to- energy projects very soon, he said.
Attorney Nuwan Sanjeewa Bopage, the convenor of the People's Movement
Against the Meethotamulla Dumping Site said though they expected the
politicians representing the area to solve the issue they have failed
miserably, and have instead used the tears and blood of the people
living around this massive garbage dump for their political advantage.
"This garbage dump has become a lucrative business for some of the
local politicians in Kolonnawa and they do not want to see an end to
this problem or to remove the dump from the area to give a peaceful life
for the people living there," he charged.
Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, Faiszer
Musthapha who visited the Meethotamulla garbage dump said politicians in
Kolonnawa should not use the garbage dump for their political advantage
but work together irrespective of political differences to solve this
"Don't make the garbage dump in Meethotamulla a platform for petty
politics. If the SLFP and the UNP can join hands to form the present
government, the politicians in Kolonnawa too can get together to solve
this issue as the government is determined to resolve it and relieve the
people in Kolonnawa from the burden of l the garbage dump," he said.
Coming from the Minister in charge of the Local Government bodies,
the comments make a lot of sense, but what is most important is to turn
those words into practice for the benefit of the people who have
suffered long enough.