The Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management Project plans to solve the capital city’s escalating waste mismanagement problem, which culminated in the disaster at Meethotamulla. The project involves the collection and compression of solid waste from the municipal and urban councils of Colombo at a transfer station in Kelaniya. The waste will then be transported by train to Aruwakkalu, Puttalam where it will be deposited at a sanitary land fill, which will be in keeping with international standards.
While this project represents a comprehensive effort to tackle waste management, backed by political will, it presents potential environmental harms which must be addressed through suitable mitigation measures, if the project is to succeed.
Commenting on the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment Report, EFL noted that as the Kelaniya Transfer Station is currently situated on a wetland, which would be degraded and polluted by waste accidents and has implications for flood control.
Visits to the proposed landfill site in Aruakkalu confirmed the presence of a herd of elephants in the area. EFL also learned that elephants traverse the project area to reach to lagoon in the dry season. While electrical fencing would be essential to the project area, further studies into elephant movements are needed to ensure that Human-Elephant Conflict would not be exacerbated in the area.
The project also makes no allowance for segregation at any stage of the process of disposal, which is a huge flaw, considering that households and municipal councils are transitioning into more effective systems of waste segregation. This plan would effectively facilitate a regression of this positive practice.