Following the tragic aftermath of Meethotamulla, the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment is proposing a National Waste Management Policy (NWMP). Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) was made party to the steering committee of the NWMP by virtue of us instituting a Supreme Court fundamental rights application, SC (FR) 243/ 2017, which addressed garbage dumping in environmentally sensitive areas. With the ever increasing challenge of waste management in Sri Lanka, a comprehensive policy on waste management is not only essential, but severely overdue.
The final draft presented by the Ministry comprises of an overall vision, objectives, guiding principles and policy statements. The policy is well rounded in its breadth, including solid, liquid and gaseous waste, while addressing an array of sectors such as (but not limited to) municipal waste, packing waste and industrial waste. Beyond sectors, the policy addresses knowledge management, capacity building, institutional mechanisms and means for legally enforcing the policy.
Throughout the policy, waste is looked at as a resource to maximize its utility value. Measures have been taken to hold the government, authorities, private sector and civil society accountable with clear responsibilities laid out. Failures and loopholes identified from the previous solid waste policy have been tackled in the proposed draft.
The policy was drafted through a process of stakeholder participation workshops including government representatives, local authorities, industry and civil society. Public comments were also integrated into the policy where appropriate.
The policy is our hope to prevent similar catastrophes reoccurring, due to the inefficiency of waste management in the country. While the policy intends to serve as a guideline for sectoral policies by addressing each stream of waste in detail and comprehensively, the realisation of it can only be followed by action plans in the foreseeing future.
EFL will continue to monitor its progress.