We have at times heard the phrase, ‘When the shit hits the fan’ meaning when things we never heard of thus far suddenly coming out into the public domain. We are now facing such a situation when literally the muck belonging to other countries has been surreptitiously unloaded on Sri Lanka and its people.
As if the daily accumulation of garbage in Sri Lanka’s Cities, Towns and their Suburbs is not enough, we have now turned the country into an international garbage dump. According to what was disclosed in Parliament by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, this spate of garbage dumping had been facilitated by gazette notice 1818/30 dated July 11, 2013 signed by the finance minister of the then Rajapaksa government thus relaxing Customs and Import controls leaving the doors open for such dubious imports.
Mr. Dissanayake urged the government to reveal the number of container-loads of garbage imported to Sri Lanka, the name of the importer or the importers and the number of container-loads if any, that were re-exported from Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera has directed the Customs Director General to conduct an inquiry and submit a report on the basis that such imports were illegal and carried out without the express permission of the Central Environment Authority (CEA) and a violation of the Customs Ordinance, the Environment Act and the Basel Convention. The minister assured he would take strict action against those found guilty of doing so and said he had instructed the officials to explore the possibility of filing criminal charges against the importers because the punishment laid down by the Customs Ordinance was not sufficient for such a serious offence.
Responding to the question asked by the JVP leader, the minister said some 2,964,850 kilograms of garbage had been imported to Sri Lanka while only 283,405 kilograms had been re-exported.
He also directed the importers to return the garbage consignments to the country or countries of origin, from which they were imported. In such a scenario a question that begs answers is that what happens to the garbage left over after the process of reprocessing? Are the left overs re-exported or dumped elsewhere in Sri Lanka.
Be that as it may, we would have not known about this severe environmental hazard if not for the news that the Customs had detained several hundred container-loads of garbage, mainly made up of clinical waste. Where were the environmentalists when the previous government signed this questionable gazette notice? None of them was heard raising any sort of protest or any sort of hue and cry about the harm that could be caused to Sri Lanka and its environment by some unscrupulous private companies undertaking such an adventure for the purpose of amassing filthy lucre at the expense of the country and its unwary people.
Meanwhile, a report published in the Daily telegraph stated that the British government has launched an investigation after Sri Lankan authorities said they would send back more than a 100 shipping containers because they appeared to contain human remains disguised as recyclable metals.
It said officials at the port of Colombo had made the grisly discovery while investigating a strong smell emanating from 111 containers which have been arriving at the docks over the past two years.
Inside the crates, customs officials found the “extremely hazardous” materials mixed in with mattresses, plastics and clinical waste, used metal consignments, carpets, bird feathers, worms and glass scraps.
Why have the Sri Lankan authorities allowed this country to be turned into a dump for international garbage whatever it might be made up of? Have we forgotten the tragedy caused by the Kolonnawa garbage mountain? The people need to know who is responsible for creating the garbage muddle when Sri Lanka is already in a quandary grappling as best as it could to sort out its mounting garbage crisis while running out of places to dump them in.
Sri Lanka is nobody’s plaything, the law must be stringently applied on the miscreants whoever they may be or however highly connected they may be. Let us save our dear Motherland from self-centred, selfish and deceitful business tycoons who are amassing ill-gotten wealth by turning Sri Lanka into a dumping ground for international garbage.
Why should Sri Lanka, its people and its environment pay such a heavy price for the muck produced by the West?