Palitha Range Bandara

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Patali Champika Ranawaka recently announced that a certain amount of the garbage generated in Colombo would be transported to a dumping site in Aruwakkalu in Puttalam where a garbage disposal facility  would be set up. The project proposed as a potential solution to the garbage problem in the Western Province is to be initiated in September.

State Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management, United National Party Puttalam District MP Palitha Range Bandara spoke to the Nation regarding the most important stakeholder, the people of Puttalam being kept in the dark about the proposed project.

Q : What is the view of the people in the area about this?

The people do not know. The people have not been made aware of. As a result, we do not know their stance. All that the people in the area know is what has been reported in the media. They have not been officially informed of the proposed project and the mechanism, procedure and process involved. Even a certain number of the area’s people’s representatives, around 20 to 25 of them, and public officials, came to know of such only at a recently conducted Puttalam District coordination meeting held at the District Secretariat. The group who were not made aware of the said project includes Puttalam District Parliamentarians, North Western Provincial Councilors, and people’s representatives from the Puttalam and Anamaduwa electorates and seats.

Q : What do you think should be done differently?

The outcome should not harm the denizens or the environment. Projects that are useful for the country must be implemented, yet the area should not be damaged as the harm caused as a result will then fall upon the hapless residents. Puttalam is next to the Indian Ocean, and there are forest areas in the District and also the lagoon. It is amidst and in the face of various dangers, risks and vulnerabilities that the people in the area are living. They live under pressure. When the Lakvijaya coal power plant cum station was proposed to be established with China in Norochcholai, the area’s people’s representatives, public officials, fisherfolk and farmers studied the project, and I subsequently opposed it taking into account the hardships that the people of the area would face as a result of the said project coming up. A group of representatives of the then Government of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga gave statements to the media in support of the said project. There were meetings in this regard in Puttalam and also in Hong Kong. Only I opposed the regressive situation that would arise. Yet, even while in the business lounge of an airport en route, all other parties present held a different view from mine and gave statements to the State and Government media personnel attesting to such.

Later in terms of industries, first there was dust from the cement factory, and then there were iron, ore and steel factories in Madampe in Chilaw and in Kalladi in Puttalam (not Batticaloa). The consequences of these are not known and must be looked into. In the case of Norochcholai, the mountain of ash from the coal used in the Norochcholai plant will one day be higher than the station itself. This will in turn contaminate the area’s environment and adversely affect the farmers of fruits and vegetables. Development must be done, yet environmental impacts must be reduced. Previously, people were suppressed and were killed. Now, they can protest, and there are discussions.

Q : What do you make of the argument – Kolamba Kunu Apita Epa (We do not want Colombo’s garbage or garbage from Colombo)?

Regarding the people of Puttalam not wanting Colombo’s garbage or garbage from Colombo, then any part of the country can say that we do not want rice from Anamaduwa and Rajanganaya or fruits from Norochcholai and Kalpitiya, and the people in Ratnapura can refuse the fish from Galle. For purposes of governance and administration, the country is divided into parts such as Districts and Provinces. Each Province does not have a Constitution. Such logic is juvenile. We cannot agree with such and we do not occupy such a position even if hypothetically speaking the law stated otherwise, not that the latter is the case.

Q : Where do you stand in this regard?

At the aforementioned committee meeting when the people’s representatives gained a certain level of awareness about the proposed project, some expressed opposition while others attempted to explain. The Chief Minister of the North Western Province, Provincial Ministers and Provincial Councilors directly opposed it. What I say is that in order to be able to speak in favour of it or against it, one must first be aware of the facts and therefore whoever is implementing this project, s/he should be responsible for making all the relevant stakeholders and especially the people aware of what they intend to do and how.

Q : What are the challenges Puttalam is facing in relation to waste management in the area?

There are no issues or problems with regard to waste management including garbage clearance in the Wayamba Province as all the District level local authorities are managing such.