Karadiyana waste management project:
Turning garbage into a resource
The lush greenery and the waterways all around accompanied with the cool and misty weather due to rains gives the impression that we are in the upcountry.
The scenic Bolgoda lake in its calm environment adds more beauty to the area. No wonder it inspired poets and lyricists to come out with their best.
However, trucks and tractors loaded with heaps of garbage lined up in a queue and the stench emanating from the garbage mounts take you to an entirely different world in a few minutes, as you enter the Karadiyana garbage dumping site in Boralesgamuwa adjoining the Bokundara village.
Twenty five acres of marshy land in Karadiyana in Boralesgamuwa has become a site to dump more than 400 metric tonnes of garbage collected from four local government bodies in the Colombo suburbs-the Dehiwala Mount Lavinia and Moratuwa Municipal Councils and Kesbewa and Boralesgamuwa Pradeshiya Sabha for many years.
Considering that 60 percent of the country's garbage collected from the western province which represents only six percent of the land mass of the country it is not a matter for surprise to see mountains of garbage in the western province invading the lush greenery left in the province.
If not for the intervention of the government, politicians representing the area, government officials and residents living around the Karadiyana dumping site which was earlier handled by a private company, would have been easily turned into another garbage mountain like the Bloemendhal site in Colombo.
The law suit against the private company and the timely intervention of ministers led by Gamini Lokuge, A.H.M. Fowzie and the Western Provincial Council Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has avoided that disaster by taking the site under the Western Province Waste Management Authority.
Kosala Gunawardena the site manager of the Karadiyana garbage dumping site said the private company which was handling the dumping site without adhering to environmentally accepted scientific methods had caused immense health, environmental and social hazards in the area spreading dengue and making the aquatic species in the Bolgoda Lake extinct.
As the private company has not followed conditions laid out by the Central Environment Authority, the site was handed over to the Western Province Waste Management Authority (WMA) in 2010.
"Local authorities had paid exorbitant prices for dumping garbage at the site but there was no proper management of that garbage by the company. It was handed over to us with a backlog of more than 4,000 metric tonnes of garbage collected over ten days", Gunawardena said.
Weighing garbage at the dump
A mafia was handling the recyclable waste collected from the dump by poor peasants living around grabbing their valued collection at a cheap price.
The Police and local politicians came forward to control this mafia in the effort by the WMA to make the site more environmental friendly to prevent health and environmental hazards.
About 25 people who collected valued items like plastic and metal and copper from the site were registered with the WMA and were provided with boots, nose pads, gloves and uniforms streamlining activities within the site.
"We provided them a platform to sell their collections and brought in companies to purchase their collection at a reasonable price", Gunawardena added.
This enabled the increase of the daily earnings of these peasants from a mere Rs. 150 to Rs. 200 per day to nearly Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 2,000.
Deputy Inspector General Anura Senanayake who is in charge of the environmental police helped the WMA and the police officers of the area to control the big mafia running this thriving business of grabbing the wealth of the peasants.
The WMA went ahead with its responsibility of turning the garbage dumping site into a more environmentally friendly one clearing the backlog left behind by the company and smoothly handling more than 400 metric tonnes of garbage brought in by the four local government bodies.
"Within three days we could clear the backlog and we had the capacity to handle it. We had the determination that we can manage the site with the available resources as the chief minister and the heads of the WMA were extending their support", Kosala added.
To handle 400 metric tonnes collected on a daily basis, a person was selected by open tender and provided facilities for collecting recyclable garbage by keeping ten per cent of the daily collection with the WMA.
The garbage brought to the site in vehicles are weighted on arrival and pressed using heavy machinery.
"With the pressure, the bags open and small layers of soil laid on the dump to avoid odour coming out of the site", he said.
Facilities such as access roads and sleepers to facilitate the vehicle movement on the site were made available with the speedy intervention of Provincial Chief Minister Prasanna Ranathunga.
Kosala Gunawardena at work
"Minister Basil Rajapaksa on the request of the chief minister allocated funds to construct the access roads and the roads within the site", he said.
The operations of the site is under the close scrutiny of the Karadiyana Site Review Committee.
"Even Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who extended his support by providing us soil to lay on the garbage through the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation is monitoring the activities of the site", Gunawardena said.
Representatives from the village, the CEA, LRDC, Grama Sevakas, Divisional Secretary, Disaster Management Centre are included in the committee and they meet monthly to review activities of the project.
Dumping garbage and managing it properly is not the only objective of the WMA. "We hope to produce compost out of the garbage collected and to generate energy using garbage", Gunawardena said.
On January 26, the foundation was laid to construct a compost yard at the site. With the establishment of this compost manufacturing yard 100 metric tonnes of perishable waste can be used to manufacture compost on a daily basis.
"Using 100 metric tonnes of perishable waste per day means we can handle 200 metric tonnes of normal waste on a daily basis since there is about 50 percent of solid waste which can be used for compost manufacturing", Gunawardena said.
The Western Provincial Council has provided Rs.80 million out of the Rs.107 million of the total project cost. The balance will be funded by the Pilisaru program of the Environment Ministry.
"We will be able to start manufacturing compost fertilizer by the end of this year", he added.
Apart from this, experiments are on to make use of the methane gas emanating from the site for power generation.
"Methane is 21 times more detrimental to global warming than carbon dioxide and what we are trying is to collect at least a percentage of it without allowing it to add to the air", Gunawardena said.
The Provincial Irrigation Department and the Disaster Management Authority helps avoid leachate of the site flowing to the canals and the Bolgoda lake preventing water pollution.
Mangroves will be cultivated in the surrounding areas to provide greenery to make the site eco-friendly.
Deputy Director WMA Nalin Mannapperuma said the support of the public is essential for the project to reach its ultimate goal.
"We need the support of the public by way of separating the garbage and adhering to proper garbage collecting methods, he said.
"We are promoting the seven steps of waste management-managing the waste at the place of origin to take garbage from the places of origin, cleaning of public places, to stop usage of open garbage bins, streamlining garbage transportation, using garbage as a resource and streamlining the garbage dumping sites", Mannapperuma said.
"If we can implement these seven steps involving the community, officials and the local government bodies we can make use of the waste collected in the western province as a resource of the country", he said.