Kerawalapitiya garbage yard: Increasing organic fertiliser production

By Uwin Lugoda

Following through with its attempts to promote the use of organic fertiliser within the country’s agricultural community, the Sri Lankan Government is now working on increasing the organic fertiliser production capacity of the Kerawalapitiya Garbage Yard.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Urban Development Authority (UDA) Media Spokesperson Prasad Manju stated that the initiative is being conducted under the advice of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to help supplement the Government’s efforts to introduce organic agriculture to the country.

The initiative by the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation (SLLDC) is set to increase the amount of bio-organic compost produced from 15 MT per day to 50 MT.

“The SLLDC’s initiative is giving a positive start to the Government’s policy decision on the use of organic manure, by increasing Sri Lanka’s production of bio-organic compost,” said Manju.

The move came following President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ban on the importation of chemical fertilisers. This was due to the usage of chemical fertilisers having negative consequences on society via the pollution of lakes, canals, and groundwater.

The country’s health sector has also been quick to point out that the effects of chemical fertilisers have led to a number of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including kidney diseases.

The expenses to treat these patients and the impact on human lives caused by these chemical fertilisers were deemed more important than the high yield they produce.

Manju stated that the new initiative will expand the current capabilities of the Kerawalapitiya Garbage Yard, which was launched in April 2017, to compost organic raw materials into usable fertiliser. Its construction also followed the collapse of the Meethotamulla garbage dump and incurred an initial investment of Rs. 550 million.

Explaining further, Manju said the new initiative to increase the garbage yard’s output cost the SLLDC another Rs. 850 million. The landfill has been constructed on 20 acres of land, within a 400-acre land belonging to the SLLDC.

The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is the main garbage supplier to the garbage yard, with more garbage suppliers also coming from the Wattala, Ja-Ela, Dompe, and Attanagalla local and municipal councils.

In addition, a number of private sector suppliers are also engaged in supplying the garbage to the Kerawalapitiya Garbage Yard. 

He stated that in line with the Government’s policy decision, the Commercial Fertiliser Company, which is already engaged in the production of chemical fertilisers, has also initiated a programme to process bio-organic fertilisers. According to this plan, the Commercial Fertiliser Company has placed an order for 4,000 tonnes of organic compost at the Kerawalapitiya Garbage Yard, which the garbage yard is currently in the process of delivering.

Manju stated that the SLDDC had already prepared a plan to increase the daily production of biofertiliser and is working on implementing the plan under four production steps.

According to the plans prepared, a special cover zone will be constructed at a cost of Rs. 250 million to cover the waste taken for grinding without rain. Then, another Rs. 500 million has been spent on the completion of the basic special section.

The third step under this plan is to start making granular fertiliser at a cost of Rs. 50 million. The final step is to provide and upgrade a number of existing infrastructure facilities required for the Rs. 50 million garbage project.

“The Kerawalapitiya Garbage Yard already receives 500 MT of garbage per day, which is then piled up for about six months and left to decompose. The SLLDC also sprays the piles with medicine to remove the foul odour it gives out. The organic compost mixture is then prepared after a few steps of production, leading to the production of high-quality biofertiliser in about eight to 10 minutes,” said Manju.

The garbage project currently hosts nearly 70 employees and all the machinery required to maintain the biofertiliser process without interruption.

Government comment

Responding to the industry’s concerns, Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage stated that there is no cause for concern since the Government is giving a worthy alternative to the inorganic fertilisers. He explained that four different fertilisers will be provided by the Government to each agricultural and plantation sector, with specific recommendations on how it is to be used.

The four fertilisers include high-quality compost produced locally with 3% nitrogen, locally sourced liquid fertiliser made with microbes, which also contains nitrogen, imported nitrogen extract with 12% nitrogen, and imported potassium.

“These are the four varieties that we are providing to all the farmers and planters. Each of them will have specific recommendations depending on the plant. So, I don’t see a cause for concern,” said Aluthgamage.