February 18, 2020
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    Aruwakkalu garbage train ready by March end - Ministry

    August 14, 2019

    The special railway carriages to transport the Colombo’s huge garbage load from the Kelaniya transmission station to the Aruwakkalu waste processing facility in Puttalam will be ready by the end of March next year, Megapolis and Western Development Ministry Secretary Nihal Rupasinghe told news media yesterday.

    Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry, the Secretary said that transporting garbage collected by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) to the Aruwakkalu Sanitary Landfill Site by road was a temporary measure to avoid a crisis situation.He said the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) would be waived of the ‘tipping fee’ for disposing waste at Aruwakkalu site until March next year considering the high transport cost the CMC has to be bear to carry garbage to Puttalam by road. A ‘Tipping Fee’ is a fee paid by anyone who disposes of waste in a landfill. Usually, this fee is based on the weight of the waste per ton.

    This serves in helping with the maintenance and other operating costs of a landfill.The Secretary said the Cabinet had appointed a Committee headed by him to decide on a suitable amount of a tipping fee and it would be imposed after March.The committee also comprises of the Puttalam District Secretary, a Treasury official and a CMC representative.“We have met seven times now. But coming up with an engineering estimate for the purpose is difficult as some of the equipment is being used for the first time in the country. We can get a rough idea following trial runs in the coming weeks.

    The Cabinet also approved the hand-over the project’s operation to a company affiliated to the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation,” he disclosed.The Ministry has awarded tenders for the purchase of four railway engines, 34 transporter wagons and 94 containers to transport garbage by train. Rupasinghe said that the construction of the Kelaniya transmission station was also progressing fast. He said the entire project, costing Rs. 23 billion, has achieved 58 percent financial progress as at present.

    Responding to criticisms by residents and politicians in Puttalam that the Aruwakkalu landfill would pollute ground water and the lagoon, Social Specialist Nimal Premathilake of the Ministry’s Solid Waste Management Project stressed that they take the 100 percent responsibility for its construction and that all those claims were baseless.

    Observing that the CMC has been complaining about the high cost borne to transport garbage to Puttalam, he pointed out that the CMC had been spending millions of rupees to dump garbage elsewhere over the past years.

    Citing the report of the Presidential Commission on the Meethotamulla garbage dump tragedy, he pointed out that the CMC had spent Rs 252 million to flatten the garbage dump in January, 2017. “It is highly questionable as to how the garbage dump collapsed in April, 2017, if garbage had been flattened in January spending that sum of money. The report has recommended taking action against those who had neglected their duties. The citizens of this country must read this report. Forty six people testified before this commission,” he added.

    Premalal, bringing out the statistics in the Commission report, highlighted that the CMC had spent Rs. 257 million and Rs. 211 million to dispose waste in 2007 and 2008 and Rs. 211 million and Rs. 215 million in 2015 and 2016. The figures were excluding the staff salaries.

    He was also said that the CMC, despite the fact that the Aruwakkalu project is a dire need for the Council to manage its solid waste, has not shown much interest in supporting the Ministry’s endeavour to debunk misinformation about Aruwakkalu. As the Aruwakkalu Landfill commenced receiving garbage collected in Colombo last week, the Ministry Secretary and a team of officials made an inspection tour at the site on Monday to look into the operations and complaints by the residents and political representatives. Central Environmental Authority (CEA) Waste Management Unit Director Sarojini Jayasekera observed the project was being implemented subject to 147 conditions laid out by the CEA. She reiterated that the CEA was closely monitoring the solid waste transportation and disposal process as at present. The instructions have been given to properly cover the garbage trucks and to spray ordour control chemicals before transporting them to Puttalam by trucks.

    Responding to questions, Ministry Secretary Rupasinghe observed that ‘waste to energy’ projects were too expensive for the country, and that the Cabinet has decided not to construct them any more after the two projects currently being implemented in Karadiyana and Kerawalapitiya.

    “Even if you implement waste to energy projects, you need landfills to deposit the bottom ash generated by them. Thirty percent of solid waste fed in to them will end up as bottom ash,” he explained.


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