Waste from ships to be monitored

The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) commenced inspecting ship-generated waste (SGW) reception facilities in the country yesterday (7), the Ministry of Defence stated.

MEPA is carrying out the programme together with the Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Coast Guard, Central Environmental Authority (CEA), Sri Lanka Customs, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), and the Police.

This special programme was launched under the directives of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, with the support of Defence Secretary Major General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne. According to MEPA, there are over 28 licensed SGW reception service providers in Sri Lanka and the average annual collection of SGW oil in the country is 26,904 cubic metres while 7,404 cubic metres of garbage is collected by listed companies.

The Defence Secretary said that although MEPA does not fall under the purview of the Ministry of Defence, the President had given a direction to involve the Ministry to devise an effective mechanism to make the sector a more revenue-making venture. Major General Gunaratne said President Rajapaksa had given directives to restructure the SGW management process to provide adequate and effective reception facilities for any harmful substance or any other pollutant without polluting marine and other environmental zones in the country.

“The Government has come to know that there are some shortcomings in the existing system and I was instructed by President Rajapaksa to monitor the process. In most countries, the ships coming to their ports are paying them to remove waste oil, but in Sri Lanka, we pay the ships to get their ship wastes into the country,” he said at a special meeting held at the Ministry yesterday.

According to the Defence Secretary, the Ministry will facilitate, monitor, and support all stakeholders to implement a mechanism to transform SGW reception services to revenue-generation ventures.

However, stressing the importance of getting all stakeholders involved in regulating the process, he had instructed MEPA to streamline the process through Cabinet approval while having combined efforts between all stakeholders to draw an effective restructuring process. Major General Gunaratne had directed MEPA Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura to co-ordinate and nominate a team consisting of members representing all stakeholder institutions to inspect the process of all the listed companies receiving SGW within or outside any port in Sri Lanka.

Lahandapura, stressing the need to establish a proper co-ordination mechanism for the whole process with a focal point for all agencies, said that rapid and frequent site and process inspections to monitor waste storage and disposal sites are essential to make the sector more effective.

MEPA General Manager and senior lecturer at the University of Ruhuna Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara, conducting a presentation during the session, highlighted the potential environmental hazards and areas of concern related to SGW.

Attributing dewatering due to oily water dumping into waterways, oily water spilling along the roads, oily residuals in open burning, and oil spillages as some of the environmental hazards caused by ad hoc handling of SGW, Dr. Kumara revealed bribery, undercuts, corruption, and political and underworld influences as hindering factors for the ineffective handling of SGW services.

He also revealed some irregularities like mixing SGW oil with kerosene and selling in the local market.

Navy Commander Vice Admiral Piyal De Silva, Director General of Customs Major General (Retd.) G. Ravipriya, Director General of Sri Lanka Coast Guard Rear Admiral (Retd.) Samantha Wimalathunga, Director General of CEA Hemantha Jayasinghe, Deputy Inspector General of Environmental Police Anil Priyantha, Harbour Master of SLPA Nirmal Silva, and MEPA and Sri Lanka Customs officials were also present at the meeting.