Garbage Dumping in Environmentally Sensitive Areas


SCFR 243/2017

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.

Following the incident at Meethotamulla on the 14th of April 2017, where over 30 people lost their lives due a mountain of garbage collapsing, solid waste was diverted to other areas in and around Colombo, without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment or an Initial Environmental Examination.

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. This order unfairly denies citizens of an opportunity to challenge the actions of the local authorities, who were handling solid waste management in an inappropriate manner. And, within 24 hours, 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. It is also a designated RAMSAR wetland.

Another site that has been utilised in an improper and illegal manner for waste disposal is, the Kotikawatta Dumping Grounds, which began as a 4 acre site and now extends to 26 acres, covering both state and private land. EFL conducted a site visit on the 20th of April 2017, upon which it was learnt that, while the dumping grounds was allotted for municipal waste only from the Kollonawa- Mulleriya Pradeshiya Sabha, waste from the Kollonawa Urban Council, as well as industrial waste from the Biyagama Industrial Zone was also being disposed of at this site, causing severe hardship to the residents of the area and school children attending the neighbouring Somadevi Balika Vidyalaya.

EFL filed a petition with the intention of halting garbage disposal in these two sites, requesting that the respondents adopt scientifically sound practices that are detailed in Technical Guidelines on Solid Waste Management published by the Central Environmental Authority. In order to prevent the recurrence of illegal and destructive garbage dumping, the petition filed by EFL also requested the court to direct respondents to formulate a national policy on solid waste management.

In January 2018, EFL was invited to take part in the discussions to formulate a national policy on waste management by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment. Drafting this policy was a consequence of the legal cases filed by EFL and a few other parties against the mismanagement of waste followed by tragedies such as the collapsing of Meethotamulla garbage dump. As a result, the case filed by EFL has been fixed for support.

The concerned met on the 13th of June 2018 to update the court about their stance on settlement. Thus, it will be up for mention on the 10.09.2018.

The case was taken up before the Supreme Court on 14.01.2019 and the Learned State Counsel appearing for the Respondents informed the court that the National Policy on Waste Management is prepared and is pending approval.

Accordingly, the case will be taken up on 08.06.2020