The Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management sector in Sri Lanka is steadily improving during the last few decades due to the active involvement of the Central Government, Provincial Councils, non-government organizations, and community-based initiatives. However, despite the substantial improvement of the implementation of source segregated waste collection, organic waste resources recovery by composting, and establishment of inorganic waste recovery for recycling by Local Authorities (LAs), private recyclers, and informal sector, a substantial amount of uncollected and collected waste is still dumped in open dumpsites. It has been reported that 339 open MSW dumpsites scattered all around the cities and urban areas of the country (Dharmasiri, 2019). Consequently, the Ministry of Environment (MoE) took leadership to introduce the concept of open dumpsite rehabilitation and safe closure which was technically and financially supported by IGES Centre Collaborating with UNEP on Environmental Technologies (CCET), United Nations Environmental Program, and Ministry of Environment, Japan (MOEJ).
As the first step, MoE and IGES-CCET collaboratively initiated a project to develop comprehensive practical guideline for safe closure and rehabilitation of MSW dumpsites in Sri Lanka which can be endorsed by Local Authorities and other stakeholders to be used in future final disposal management. Moreover, the need of moving away from open dumpsite has already been highlighted in the recent Waste Management Policy of Sri Lanka (Waste Management Policy, 2019). Consequently, a series of stakeholder meetings and discussions were held to decide the content and structure of the guideline, and finally, all stakeholders agreed to develop a comprehensive, yet simple guideline that can be referred to and understand by policy makers, waste management administrators, and mid-and low-level officers on Local Authorities and other stakeholder institutions. After a series of consultative workshops, meetings and report reviewing processes, the “Guidelines for Safe Closure and Rehabilitation of Municipal Solid Waste Dumpsites in Sri Lanka” was developed and published by MoE in February 2021 in the English language. Moreover, the same manual is being translated to the official languages of Sri Lanka: Sinhala and Tamil which will help for a better understanding of target users.
The concept of dumpsite rehabilitation and safe closure is new to many actors in the MSW sector; thus, MoE and IGES-CCET intended to conduct a workshop to introduce the guideline document and also to educate target uses (persons who are responsible for decision making, operation, and management of final disposal sites) on the need, practice, and technical aspects of dumpsite safe closure and rehabilitation. Though there was a huge demand from target uses to learn the concept by participating in an interactive training workshop, the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic control regulations in Sri Lanka restrict the large gathering and extended stays. Therefore, at first, a one-day seminar was organized by MoE in Colombo inviting key actors from main institutions and representatives from all 09 provinces of Sri Lanka. The seminar targeted a mixed audience; however, the majority were administrators, engineers, technical officers, public health inspectors, and environmental officers from Provincial/Local Authorities. In addition, participants from key stakeholder institutions such as the Ministry of Environment, the National Solid Waste Support Center, and the Waste Management Authority - Western Province also attended the seminar.
This report summarized the structure, delivery, and outcome of the “National Seminar on Guidelines for Safe Closure and Rehabilitation of Municipal Solid Waste Dumpsites in Sri Lanka” which was held at Waters Edge (Nelum Hall), Battaramulla, Sri Lanka on 24th March 2021.
The overall aim of the workshop was to officially endorse and launch the “Guidelines for Safe Closure and Rehabilitation of Municipal Solid Waste Dumpsites in Sri Lanka”. In addition, the seminar set the following objectives;
- Make aware senior and filed level government officials on the “Guidelines for Safe Closure and Rehabilitation of Municipal Solid Waste Dumpsites in Sri Lanka”.
- Make aware regulatory authorities, management authorities, and practitioners of the importance of dumpsite rehabilitation.
- Educate the participants on the risk of dumpsites and technical aspects of dumpsite rehabilitation and safe closure.
- Initiate a dialog among stakeholders on the practical use of guidelines with a special focus on challenges and opportunities.
- Conduct discussion on the future course of actions, especially training of trainers and stakeholders on practical use of guidelines.
- Demonstrate the process and outcome of the recently rehabilitated Meethotummulla open dumpsite by technical presentations and field visits to the rehabilitated dumpsite.