Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited filed a Fundamental Rights application in the Supreme Court (SC (Ref) No. 243/2017 pending support) objecting to the illegal disposal of solid waste in the Muthurajawela sanctuary, the Kotikawatta Garbage Disposal Site and several other locations, on the 14th of July 2017. The respondents for the case include, among others, the Central Environmental Authority, the Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Governments, Colombo Municipal Council and Urban Development Authority. The grievances highlighted in the petition include the irregular disposal of waste in the Muthurajawela Sanctuary and the Kotikawatta Garbage Disposal Site, which is in violation of the applicable laws of the country and has caused severe damage to the environment as well as citizens residing nearby.
Sri Lanka’s waste management crisis led to the tragedy at Meethotamulla, where over 30 people lost their lives when a mountain of garbage collapsed on the 14th of April 2017. This incident was the result of decades of inefficiency and negligence on the part of government authorities entrusted with the task of garbage disposal, as well as the continual use of open garbage dumping as the primary method of solid waste management, despite hazardous effects to people and the environment. In the wake of this disaster, garbage dumping in Meethotamulla was halted and the waste was diverted to other suburban areas around Colombo.
A Gazette (Extraordinary) Notification bearing number 2015/53 dated 20th of April 2017, stated that all services, related to waste disposal, including clearance, collection, treatment and separation were now to be considered essential services under section 17 of the Public Security Ordinance. The Petition states that this order unfairly denies citizens of an opportunity to challenge or critique the actions of local authorities, who were handling solid waste management in an inappropriate manner. The Petition also notes that within 24 hours of this order, the Colombo Municipal Council began disposing waste at sites within the Muthurajawela Sanctuary, namely Delatura, Uswetakeyyawa and Bopitiya, in clear violation of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as amended as well as the National Environmental Act as amended. Muthurajawela Wetland Sanctuary is a critically important habitat that houses endemic and endangered species including migratory birds, while also providing a steady flow of hydrological and ecological services.
The Petition also highlighted the improper procedures that led to the growth of the Kotikawatta dumping grounds, which began as a 4 acre plot but now covers 26 acres of state and private land. The Kotikawatta dumping ground was intended to be a site for solid waste from the Kollonawa- Mulleriyawa Pradeshiya Sabha, but is currently used by the Kolonnawa Urban Council. Industrial waste from the Biyagama industrial zone is also dumped discreetly at night. The garbage dump, which is adjacent to a school and several houses, has caused severe hardship and discomfort to those residing in this region.
The Petition seeks to halt garbage disposal in Kotikawatta and Muthurajawela, with scientifically sound waste management practices being adopted by the respondents, including the formulation of a National Solid Waste Management Policy and the implementation of the Technical Guidelines on Solid Waste Management published by the Central Environmental Authority, in order to ensure that solid waste management is carried out efficiently and sustainably in the future.