The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) in cooperation with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has introduced a garbage disposal project ahead of the annual pilgrimage to Kataragama. Funded by a Rs.35 million contribution from the JICA, the scheme combines new and old practices of reducing polythene and other solid waste during the largest influx of visitors to Kataragama, when waste is four times higher than during any other time of the year.
CEA Chairman Chandrarathne Pallegama said that this project has three pilot sites, in Kurunegala, Ratnapura and Kataragama.“Use reusable, non-plastic containers or wrapping for the items you bring to the sacred city. Make this perahera the opportunity to think over the waste that is polluting our environment,” he said.
Pallegama said that the public should be informed to minimise plastic waste and to dispose of such waste separately to facilitate recycling. “Every year, a huge number of visitors come and worship God Skanda during the festival season. They offer their prayers to the God, while dirtying the town that embraces the God,” said Moneragala District MOH Director Dr. P.D.K Adikari.
The solid waste management scheme aligns well with this year’s theme for ‘Suriduni Kataragama 2018’ which is surakimu sobadhama, or protect the environment. Under the scheme, a new landfill site is already under construction in Kataragama, which considers the environment on multiple levels. The site uses locally available materials, like an expansive clay lining that protects the soil underneath. It also has gas removal and leachate pipes to prevent unexpected fires and groundwater pollution. An electric fence will be installed around the site to prevent wild elephants from eating waste like plastic, which is harmful to their health.
As in previous years, checkpoints will be established to collect plastic and polythene bags and containers from visitors. Plastic bags will be replaced by fabric bags donated by various organisations and dignitaries, including the Rotary Club, Sri Lanka Environmentalist Society, Kale Resort hotel, the Chief Incumbent of the Kirivehera, and Swadeshee. The scheme classifies solid wastes more specifically by sorting materials for both recycling and compost. The ‘Clean Tomorrow, for the City of God Skanda’ project directed by the Kataragama Pradeshiya Sabha has already led successful efforts to separate biodegradable from non-biodegradable waste.
This July, the Pradeshiya Sabha will begin implementing a project to separate recyclable from non-recyclable waste, separating glass bottles, hard plastic, paper and cardboard from general waste. These materials will be sold to recycling factories and recycling dealers. Despite the efforts of Kataragama’s Pradeshiya Sabha, ‘soft plastics’ such as grocery bags and lunch sheets remain difficult for the organisation to collect and process.Outside the jurisdiction of the town, the Perahera Committee has taken the initiative for the management of waste in the Sacred Area around Kataragama Dewale