The streets stand paved with garbage:
By Wednesday, June 1, residents in Wellampitiya had begun the tedious
process of sorting their garbage, long before officials from the
Disaster Management Centre or the Municipality had arrived.
Post-floods garbage on the
Pic: Chintaka Kumarasinghe
Among the many heaps of garbage that continued to pile up on the
wayside were an assortment of electronic waste. It wasn't long, before
the Civil Defence Forces arrived at the scene, at daybreak, to help haul
the garbage away.
A Cabinet paper was passed the very same day approving the use of
heavy machinery to clear the accumulated piles of garbage disposed by
residents in the surrounding areas.
The Cabinet had approved the deployment of 10 sets of equipment under
the supervision of Provincial Councils to dispose of waste accumulated
in Kotikawatta and Mulleriyawa since May 30.
"This is an unusual situation for us, because we are responding to
the disaster, which is different from the day to day disposal of
garbage," said Nalin Mannapperuma, Director, Western Province Waste
Management Authority (WPWMA). The Authority he said was yet to ascertain
just how much garbage it had been transporting to landfills, considering
its sheer magnitude.
Disposal of e-waste
The Civil Defence Forces who were hard at work at Zaras Garden in
Wellampitiya had little inclination as to what ought to be done with
tech items turned trash. The piles included several television sets,
desktop computers, radios and refrigerators.
The WPWMA however, was oddly relying on private companies to take
away the electronic waste.
"We don't have a designated place to dump electronic waste," said
Mannapperuma. "We are depending on private companies to help, since many
of them have been doing it as their Corporate Social Responsibility
On an average, Sri Lanka generates 75, 000 metric tons of electronic
waste annually, making it the biggest challenge in waste management,
according to a guide published by the UNDP last year. Accumulated
Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT) found in television sets, mobile phones, CFL
bulbs, batteries and computers are prominent among the piles of e-waste,
and are poorly recycled.
"We need to have designated dump sites or collection points so we can
responsibly dispose of e-waste," Mannapperuma said, adding that it needs
to be a concentrated effort carried out at a national level. "At the
moment we are hauling all garbage to Karadiyana in Piliyandala as per
the ruling given in a court order."
During the last few days, piles of garbage including electrical
appliances, mostly television screens were hauled away by garbage trucks
Sunil Mendis, a resident of 101 Watta told the Sunday Observer that
backhoes were finally brought in to clear the garbage accumulated in his
neighborhood, one of the hardest hit areas in Wellampitiya in the recent
Sudesh Nandasiri, Managing Director, Ceylon Waste Management Company
(CWMC), the only Board of Investment (BOI) approved E-Waste recycling
factory in Sri Lanka said it's still a grey area.
"We have begun receiving truck loads of electrical appliances and
expect to receive much more in the coming weeks," he said. "We are
expecting at least 750 metric tons of e-waste to be hauled into our
One of the trucks which arrived this week, had an assortment of
televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, cassette recorders,
radios, phones, microwave ovens and iron boxes. "When the trucks stop
coming, the calls continue," he said adding that they've been on the
receiving end of a barrage of calls from residents asking for
information on how to dispose of their electronic waste.
"Although it's a serious issue, it's not being taken seriously,"
Nandasiri said. He explained that a single 21 inch television set has a
colour tube weighing 18 kilograms of which 2.6 kilograms are pure lead
and another 50 milligrams lethal arsenic.
"Imagine a dump site with several such television sets and the
repercussions it would have environmentally, and the health hazard it
would pose," he said.
The CWMC is already in discussions with the Central Environment
Authority to bring about a lasting solution to a problem that will not
go away easily.
Collective national effort
Undertaking the recycling of electronic waste single handed would be
a mammoth challenge to the company, Nandasiri said. "Only half the items
can be recycled here, the rest is sent to the Netherlands. We do so for
companies that pay us, but what of all the electronic waste now on the
wayside," he queried asking if the government would step in to assist
financially with the process.
Last week, two papers sanctioned by the Cabinet saw Rs. 159 million
being allocated for post-flood clean up including garbage management in
affected areas, and cleaning the Kelani River bank. How much of it has
been designated for disposing of e-waste is uncertain.
Private companies such as Abans have advertised calling on customers
to bring electrical equipments purchased from Abans to designated mobile
services operating in Kolonnawa, Athurugiriya, Hanwella and Ja-ela. The
motive behind the CSR campaign was partly to educate consumers on the
safe disposal of e-waste by channeling them to the relevant authorities.
[Delays in disposing debris can contribute to rise in diseases]
Health sector officials have warned, the delay in disposing debris
and garbage accumulated outside homes, schools and camps would provide a
fertile breeding ground for vector borne diseases such as dengue.
Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Dr. A.R.M Thowfeek, the National
Coordinator for the National Dengue Control Unit said the unit has
amplified their efforts to clamp down any outbreak of the disease. He
feared that delays in the disposing of garbage by the Municipality could
spur the outbreak of non-communicable and vector borne diseases such as
He confirmed that there has been no outbreak reported, yet, from any
of the flood affected areas and added that the unit has deployed
inspectors to these areas to fog the camps and search and destroy
mosquito breeding places.
"A special door-to-door inspection and fogging program has been
organized for the Kolonnawa and Kaduwala areas to be initiated in the
next few days," he said. Many people are throwing out their garbage,
both organic and others since they cannot be kept indoors, Thowfeek
said. Officials have cautioned residents from dumping them randomly and
requested to compost organic materials and sort the garbage into gunny
bags, which would be easier for collection and disposal.
Thowfeek confirmed that the unit aims to reach more households by the
end of next week.