CEA to probe, sue importing firm | Daily News


Garbage imports from UK

CEA to probe, sue importing firm

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) has decided to take legal action against the prominent private company responsible for importing garbage containers without any approval, CEA Chemicals and Hazardous Waste Management Unit Director Ajith Weerasundara told the Daily News yesterday. The CEA expert said that the import of over 230 garbage containers since the end of 2017 without informing the CEA was a serious breach of the provisions of the Basel Convention.

“The CEA acts as the national competent authority under the ‘Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal’, which Sri Lanka ratified in 1992. Our permission is a must if any form of waste is to be brought into the country. The CEA’s permission had never been sought to import any container load of garbage. We have identified the company behind the importation of these container loads and we have decided to institute legal action against it,” he said.

He however did not wish to name the company, but did not also deny the speculation that an influential businessman was behind it.

According to the CEA, 102 garbage containers imported from the United Kingdom have been currently stored at the CICT terminal of the Colombo port, while another 130 garbage containers had been taken to a private company space within the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, and 57 containers out of them had been re-exported. The CEA officials inspected the garbage dump located at the Katunayake Free Trade Zone this week.

“Our prime concern is to make sure that all these containers are re-sent to the exporter. The CEA has also written to the Customs in this regard. The importation had been done using provisions in a Gazette issued in 2013, which exempted the discarded matter from the Customs Ordinance, the Monetary Control Act and the Import and Export Control Act. However, still the CEA should have been informed prior to any such importation as per the international convention. This has not been done and hence we institute legal action,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the CEA Director General Hemantha Jayasinghe issuing a press release later yesterday said the company mired in garbage controversy is ‘Heyleys Free Zone Ltd (Advantis) and it has not obtained an Environmental Protection License and Hazardous Waste Management License for processing waste. Hence, he said legal action would be taken against the company under the provisions of the National Environment Act.

The company has been operating since 2014 as an international import and export operation centre and it has BOI approval. It had imported garbage containers from a UK company known as ‘Vengaards Ltd’ at 12 occasions from October 2017 to January 2018. The total quantity of imported garbage was 27,685 metric tons. He also said that all costs of re-sending the garbage containers back to the UK must be borne by that company and that it must be done immediately without any processing in Sri Lanka.

The CEA has also given instructions to prevent any environmental harm from those garbage containers during the time they are kept in the country.

Meanwhile, the Board of Investment issuing a clarification said that the consignee of the said goods is not a BOI enterprise and neither are they operating within a BOI zone.

The BOI further wishes to clarify on the activities of a BOI enterprise Hayleys Free Zone Limited. The BOI has permitted this company in May 2014, to operate an integrated logistics center and entrepot trading as permitted activities within the Katunayake Export Processing Zone,” the clarification said. “HFZL had imported from The United Kingdom 130 containers of used mattresses and carpets for the purpose of re-export, in October 2017. Out of these containers 29 containers have been re-exported.”

However the BOI says it had taken measures to suspend all future import of the company and had given written instructions to strictly comply with commitments laid out in the BOI agreements and applicable regulations.

“The company however, has failed to meet this commitment and has from time to time requested extensions to comply, citing technical and other constraints. The BOI Board has decided to take stern action against the company to conclude this matter expeditiously.” 

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