In a discussion with Nation, Director of the Waste Management Authority (Western Province), M.M. Nalin R.C. Mannapperuma exposited the waste management plan and the institutional framework and regulatory mechanism pertaining to it, and addressed concerns about the present and future challenges with regard to the garbage problem with the latest facts and figures, and outlined the targeted outcomes of the national, provincial, local authority and community level programmes in this regard.
Q : What is the plan with which to tackle the garbage problem?
We have a plan. All other stakeholders including agencies must work with us. Right now, these stakeholder agencies are working on waste management without adhering to the plan. Thus, all such efforts go to waste. The Government gives monies to all agencies, yet the latter do not direct the funds in the right direction. This is a big investment, which however is not focused well towards achieving the targets. There is an institutional and regulatory framework for waste management which involves other agencies aside to us.
Q : What are the salient points of the policy which are in place?
The national solid waste management policy was made by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in 2007. It contains policy objectives and policy principles, the waste management hierarchy, aspects pertaining to source reduction, reuse and recycling, the latter however does not involve final disposal such as through recovery, incineration and land filling.
There is also the polluter pay principle, which is a kind of tax, where the costs of pollution mitigation, for disposal must be borne by the generator by paying the local authority if they want to get the local authority to provide them with an additional, extended waste management service. To what extent this is used at the ground level remains a problematic question.
Q : What are the strategies that have been adopted in relation to this matter?
The provincial strategies are the zonal concept of waste management, the seven steps of MSW management, the enhancement of the legal status on solid waste management, and the volume based service charge systems for managing mixed (non-sorted garbage) MSW.
Q : What is the institutional structure for the purpose?
The rules and regulations in the local government Ordinances and the Provincial Councils Act were very old. The problem is now more complex and no individual local authority can address it alone due to the required resources being limited. For an example, the Colombo Municipal Council has money but no place to dump while the opposite is true of the Sithawakapura Pradeshiya Sabha. The un-uniform distribution of resources is the issue. Therefore, resources must be shared to address the garbage problem. To introduce a proper institutional and administrative system in waste management, we have to go for cluster based waste management. We cannot say we don’t want garbage from Colombo. As far as the institutional arrangement is concerned there are waste management zones. Based on these physical identifications, clusters must work together.
Q : What are the latest statistics with regard to waste generation?
As far as Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is concerned, the annual global production is 1.3 billion metric tonnes (MTs). Garbage generation depends on the population and the economic level of the population or the country. When a population increases, so too does the garbage generation, and the same is the case with any increase in the economic level of a population or a country. In Asia and the Asia Pacific region, garbage generation will double in the next two decades. Sri Lanka too has to face this problem.
The estimated figure is that it is 6,000 MTs to 7,000 MTs per day, of which 60%, amounting to around 3,500 MTs is from the Western Province.
In terms of MSW collection, island-wide 3,600 MTs to 4,200 MTs (amounting to 60%) is collected and in the Western Province, 2,100 MTs is collected (amounting to 60%).
In Sri Lanka, the garbage generation rate increases annually by 1% to 2%. Under general conditions, by 2050, the daily garbage generation within the Western Province will be 6,000 MTs. Ongoing special development programmes will generate additional garbage, which the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development has estimated as being an additional 1,000 MTs per day by 2030, which in turn will enter the provincial municipal waste stream.
Q : This is only for MSW. What about other waste?
There is electronic including electric waste (e-waste), industrial waste and hospital waste. As far as e-waste is concerned, there is no proper national level collection system. There is one disposal facility in Maharagama. There is a bulb recycling facility. Yet, none of these are adequate. As far as industrial waste is concerned, 11,589 industries generate waste in the country, out of which 45% is in the Western Province. There is however no proper estimate of the exact amounts. This is problematic waste. As far as hospital waste is concerned, 100 MTs are generated island-wide per day, out of which 25% constitutes infected waste. There is also construction and demolition related waste. This is the gravity of the garbage problem in the present and also in the future.
Q : What is being done to address open dumping?
There must be a proper waste management plan in place to address this. The destinations of garbage at present are open dumps and open dumping. There are around 25 sites within the Western Province including Bloemendhal, Meethotamulla and Karadiyana.
During the last few decades, 10 million MTs have been deposited in these. There are, however, environmental consequences which can be categorized as environmental problems, water problems, land problems, health problems such as dengue, social problems and economic problems. There must therefore be a proper approach to managing garbage.
Q : What are the measures available in the waste management system?
There is no uniform system in place. The objective therefore was to promote a unique waste management system within the Province. India has done this, from waste segregation to final disposal. These are important steps and include who is responsible for the implementation.
The first step is the separation and management of waste at the source. The public is responsible. If this step is not performed, the other steps will not work. Therefore, the public must sort out and if possible compost.
The second step is the proper collection of waste and acceptance. The local authorities must collect the garbage as it is sorted out by the public. The third step is the cleaning of streets and public places.
The fourth step is the removal of open bins and the provision of adequate infrastructure facilities in public places and by the roadsides. The local authorities are responsible for this.
The fifth step is the improved system of waste transportation. Today, waste is instead distributed throughout the roads.
The sixth step is the use of collected waste as resources. The local and provincial authorities are responsible for the latter two while the Waste Management Authority (Western Province) provides technical inputs to the local authorities.
The seventh step involves proper final disposal facilities. The central Government and provincial government are responsible, with the central Government having the responsibility of developing the capacity of the provincial government in this regard.
Q : What is the status of the applicable laws?
The legal status is important to enforce and for this a proper legal background must be there. This is why we have amended our Statute to include proper control mechanisms such as spot fines, the service charge system and the polluter pay principle. There are regulatory mechanisms and legal provisions to enforce the 70 Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules, No. 1 of 2008 (the Extraordinary Gazette No. 1560/6 on 30 July 2008).
Q : How will the polluter pay principle be applied?
There is the volume-based waste fee system to implement the polluter pay principle. Different countries have different tools. We need a mechanism to approach this. The South Korean Government introduced such, which we studied and have localized. This is the volume based bag system. This is a pre-paid system which has been introduced as a pilot project in the Boralesgamuwa Urban Council, which we intend and plan to replicate in other local authorities as well. This designated bag is to discharge mixed garbage only. The price of the bag is embedded in the bag along with the service charge charged for the disposal of mixed waste.
Q : What are the projected outcomes?
Of the outcome, as of 2016, collection is at 60% and segregation at 25%. Out of the collected, as far as processing is concerned, composting is at nine percent, recycling at seven percent and incineration at one percent. This means that the recovery is only 17%, and 83% goes directly to an open dump. We are not satisfied with this because the target is 96%. The lack of final disposal facilities is the main problem. All stakeholders must support.