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Speedy action on garbage disposal

Officials told to address illicit sand mining, human-elephant conflict:

COLOMBO: President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday directed the Environmental Ministry to take appropriate and speedy action on garbage disposal, Human-Elephant-Conflict and illicit sand mining.

Presiding at the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry Progress Review meeting at Temple Trees, President Rajapaksa reiterated that protection and conservation of the environment was of paramount importance to the nation and therefore all measures should be taken to eliminate or at least minimise all environmental hazards encountered by the people, especially garbage disposal which has virtually become a menace in Colombo, Kandy and other urban areas.

He said that in consideration of its special importance, an efficient and knowledgeable Minister was appointed for the arduous task of solving the garbage crisis and the other daunting challenges confronted by the Ministry.

President Rajapaksa underscored the significance of erecting and installing 'transmission Towers' at one given location, in such a manner that all such transmissions could be regulated and controlled by the Central Environmental Authority as well, for a prescribed levy, instead of the present practice where such 'towers' are mushrooming by the day, invariably at awkward and unsuitable locations, causing environmental hazards and much inconvenience to the public.

He was of the view that sanctuaries such as Yala and Wilpattu which are almost abandoned now, should be spruced up to re-attract both local and foreign tourists, especially Wilpattu.

He also noted that he is always informed that the Treasury funds were dwindling, as much revenue which otherwise came to the coffers of the Treasury, were now being directed to the individual Boards which were not utilising same to its best capacity.

Environment and Natural Resources Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka briefed the President on the greatest challenges faced by his ministry, prioritising them under garbage disposal, internal water pollution, ocean and coast pollution, elephant-human conflict, illicit sand-mining, air pollution and climatic changes among others.

Minister Ranawaka was of the view that around 16,000 MT of garbage was produced in the country and only 2,600 MT was being collected by the relevant authorities in a systematic manner. Of this quantity, around 35,000 tons has been dumped in Bloemandhal, and the balance in places such as Attidiya.

"In Colombo itself, around 600 tons of garbage is collected daily. Twenty five per cent of this is collected from Colombo city only. We collect around 14 tons from hospitals alone. This is a crucial matter which the Central Government should directly get involved in. I assume if we could have around Rs.700 million, we could reach a sustainable solution within three years. We could divert the garbage to 'Compost' production", he said.

Ranawaka pointed out that the 'Elephant-Human' death ratio was around 160 to 60, and this was due to a heavy elephant population and density among many other factors, in the various regions this tragedy is experienced in. "We intend to address this matter in the 'Gamma Neguma' programme in the future," Minister Ranawaka added.

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