Seethawakapura UC’s success story in garbage disposal
We must ourselves carve out solutions for the problems created by us.
Instant or ready made solutions may not be available for them. The
problems which have become complicated due to long years of negligence
and inaction would be impossible to be solved overnight. However, saying
that, it is not prudent for all of us to just sit and worry assuming
that nothing can be changed. If you wish to bring about a change leading
to a long lasting solution, you must at least begin somewhere.
ILO Green Jobs National Project
Coordinator Shyama Salgado
This line of thought I believe suits the efforts of 'garbage' or as
now referred 'solid waste' management in Sri Lanka. As estimated the
daily waste generation in our country amounts to about 6,700 tons.
However, as reported only about 2,800 tons of waste is being collected
daily. The per capita solid waste generation in Sri Lanka is 0.4kgs.
The solid waste has become a real menace in the Western Province. The
daily waste collection from the Western Province is over 1,600 tons.
Local Government Authorities (LGAs) in Sri Lanka are responsible for
collection and disposal of waste generated by the people within their
territories. This provision is made in the Local Government Act.
However, LGAs alone are unable to cope with this menace due to lack
of financial, technological and human resources and knowledge. The
assistance of the Central Government and NGOs concentrating on this
aspect is much needed for this task. The efforts of the International
Labour Organization (ILO) Green Jobs Project in Sri Lanka to push
forward the country for a positive change in the solid waste sector with
the coordination of all relevant stakeholders is praiseworthy in this
Green Jobs project
“The ILO launched its Green Jobs in Asia programme in Sri Lanka in
the last half of 2010. Sri Lanka chapter is one among five Asian
countries where this project operates. The other four countries are
Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and Nepal. In the Sri Lankan project,
we have focused the waste sector, while Bangladesh project focuses on
solar paneling, Philippines on green constructions and Indonesia on
eco-tourism. Globally we look at eight key sectors. They are fisheries,
agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, resource-intensive
manufacturing, recycling, building and transport”, Green Jobs National
Project Coordinator Shyama Salgado explained.
This timely project addresses the issues in the solid waste sector in
a more planned and practical manner. The most common method of disposing
the solid waste collected is open dumping, which has led to numerous
environmental and health issues. Production of compost from the
municipal waste is one recommended option for the LGAs to follow.
However, to initiate such a project, the waste should be separated into
bio-degradables and non-biodegradables. About 55 to 60 percent of the
waste collected in Sri Lanka consists of bio-degradable parts.
Waste can be separated during the collection and at the dumping site.
For that, the LGAs must be provided with necessary equipment and trained
workers. The ILO under the Green Job project extends its support to
selected LGAs to convert the waste into a valuable resource through
It also concentrates on the welfare of lower level workers in the
waste sector such as waste collectors and separators of whom the
majority are informal workers.
Presently, the project is confined itself to the Western province and
three project sites have been earmarked for improvements, namely, the
Karadiyana dumpsite, Pohorawatte site which is about to launch its
compost project and the Seethawakapura site.
At the Seethawakapura site in Avissawella, Green Job project works
closely with the Seethawakapura Urban Council and the Western Province
Waste Management Authority (WPWMA) for improvements in the waste sector.
Seethawakapura UC chairman R M S Premalal Pinthu said that about 1000kgs
of compost is being produced daily at their compost site. One kilogram
of compost is being sold at Rs12.50, and for the buyers who want for
more than 50kgs, 1kg is being sold at Rs10. The UC sells about
200-300kgs of compost daily in small scale. With the intervention of the
Green Jobs, the UC has improved the standard of the compost to meet the
standards of the plantation sector, and is awaiting the Tea Research
Institute and Rubber Research Institute recommendation. Once this was
awarded, the UC would initiate partnerships with plantation companies to
secure a ready market of 2000 metric tons per year for their compost.
separators in Seethawakapura UC at work
Moreover, the UC has now moved forward to sell collected waste food
to poultry farms in the region. The chairman said that about Rs 1,200 is
being earned daily from this move, and he looked forward to expand it
further. The UC also earns an additional income by selling waste
plastics. Progressing in this task, the UC hopes to sell crushed
plastics which have a better market in the near future. Looking at the
issues of lower level waste sector workers in a more human angle, the UC
has also provisioned an allowance for them from the substantial incomes
it receives from the waste sector initiatives as mentioned above. With
the help of Green Jobs project, these workers are also provided with a
uniform which include boots and a head cover for their occupational
safety and health. Some workers have adjusted to this uniform where as
some need more time.
Salgado observed that Seethawakapura UC is a fine example for other
LGAs to learn the potential benefits by converting waste into a resource
through value addition.
Green Jobs has been conducting a training programme for all the lower
level workers of the waste sector in all 48 LGAs in the Western province
with the support of WPWMA, National Institute of Occupational Safety and
Health and LGAs.
Salgado observed that by end of June, all 4,000 workers would have
completed the training. In this training, personal hygiene, health,
occupational safety and welfare of the workers are being concentrated.
It also holds medical camps for them with the coordination of the WPWMA.
She noted that a tremendous change in workers could be observed after
the training, where they have embraced good practices for their personal
safety and hygiene at and after work.
Salgado also stressed that community attitude towards these workers
should also be changed. These workers and their families should not be
looked down and their social status must be uplifted. She noted that
their invaluable service must be well recognized and formalized.
To obtain a long lasting solution for the solid waste problem in Sri
Lanka, an attitudinal change in the people with regard to 'garbage' is
essential. People must be educated to separate household waste and to
make compost to use in their home gardening and other cultivations. Time
has come to stop collecting all garbage into one polythene bag, tie it
from the two corners, and carry it using just two fingers stretching out
your hand as far as possible to dump or hang it on the roadside.
Without expecting the LGAs to carry all the waste generated in our
household, we all must make an effort to reduce household waste through
recycling and composting. As found out, 30 percent of the household
waste can be reduced by these means.
We are all part of this society. Each of us should shoulder this
responsibility without distancing ourselves from the general reference
as ‘public’ or ‘people’. Every message targeting the general public also
counts on you and even me. Let’s work together for a clean environment.