Maritime Environment Protection Authority to complain to India over clinical waste

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Maritime Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) will hand over a written complaint to the Indian High Commission in Colombo today, seeking the intervention of the Indian Central Government to stop human-induced coastal waste flows from India to Sri Lanka.

MEPA General Manager Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Morning that the authority had already informed President Maithripala Sirisena and the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment and Mahaweli Development of the situation.

“We hope that the matter will be resolved through bilateral discussions,” he said.

According to Dr. Kumara, India was not the only country that contributed to the coastal pollution in Sri Lanka but by the garbage flows from Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

The clinical waste that was found in coastal areas off Puttalam, washed ashore from Kerala in India, Dr. Kumara said.

He further said that the clinical waste could be found in Kanda Duwa, Cinna Padu, Periya Padu, and Palliwatta Padu in Puttalam.

“Residents in these areas complained to the MEPA that 50 to 60 kilograms of clinical waste were found washed ashore. Expired medicines, bottles, polythene packages, syringes, and surgical hand gloves were among them,” he said.

According to Dr. Kumara, the Northern coastal belt, especially the Adam’s Bridge area, was heavily destroyed by the waste from Tamil Nadu. Most of the eastern and southern coastal areas were polluted with garbage which flows from Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Thailand.

“This is a serious matter as it will destroy the Sri Lankan maritime resources but unfortunately we don’t have proper laws to file a case against India. At present, all coastal countries around the world are focusing on an international policy for plastic-free oceans. After we became a member of that we would be able to take legal action but it will take a few more years,” the MEPA General Manager said.

The MEPA’s role in controlling pollution covers Sri Lanka’s 1640 km coastal belt and extends up to 200 nautical miles to the deep sea.

Meanwhile, the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department (CCCRMD) Coastal Monitoring and Evaluation Unit Head Eng. L.D. Ruhunage said the west coast of the country was worst hit by the garbage flows from inland rivers.

The department usually conducts awareness programmes to control garbage throwing to inland water resources but it is not only the CCCRMD’s responsibility but of all government institutions.

Commenting on the clinical waste issue in Puttalam, she said the department would work together with MEPA to clean the coastal areas off Puttalam.

“The biggest problem is that every tide brings new litter and plastic to be cleaned, and therefore, we encourage people to do mini beach cleans as much as they can,” she added.