UK to take back waste containers

The UK’s Environmental Agency has agreed to accept the controversial waste containers exported to Sri Lanka by a UK company, according to Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Chairman Attorney-at-Law Ravindranath Dabare.

The waste containers would be accepted once the ongoing inquiry against the UK company that exported the containers is completed, he told The Sunday Morning.

According to the CEJ Chairman, when the case was taken up last Thursday (23), the Attorney General (AG) had informed the Court of Appeal that the UK Government is in the process of conducting an inquiry on the UK company that exported waste material in freight containers to Sri Lanka, violating the UK’s environment and health regulations.

“The repatriation procedures would begin once the ongoing inquiry is completed. The main objective of the CEJ is to repatriate the containers as soon as possible in order to stop the decaying of the containers within the country,” he said, adding that legal action would be taken against the importers and there was necessary evidence to prove that the containers carried waste disposal to the country.

Even though there was no Government Analyst’s report, the initial investigation conducted by the Central Environment Authority (CEA) had stated that the containers consisted of waste disposal, Dabare noted.

Last year, Sri Lanka Customs and the CEA found that some private parties had imported around 240 container loads of waste to the country without the approval of the CEA, breaching the provisions of the Basel Convention. It was later revealed that the waste consignments were imported from the UK and had been lying at the Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) and the Katunayake Free Trade Zone (FTZ) since 2017.

The CEJ filed a writ of certiorari and mandamus in the Court of Appeal, requesting to order the CEA and SLC to conduct an investigation into the illegal importation of container loads of waste at the Colombo Port and Katunayake FTZ; to take legal action against the importer(s) under the terms of the National Environmental Act and the Customs Ordinance; and to order the Government to draft new laws, blocking the importation of waste materials to Sri Lanka.

The writ was filed by CEJ Executive Director Hemantha Withanage, naming the CEA, the Customs, and the AG’s Department as respondents of the case.

– Maheesha Mudugamuwa