I must confess that the thought of visiting a landfill did not seem appealing at first but my curiosity got the better of me and I was in a ‘tuk tuk’ on my way to Karadiyana on a clear Friday afternoon, with no clue as to what I would encounter. Winding along a circuitous route I was amazed to see marshy land dotted with fauna and flora and the birds and animals that flourish in such a setting. In abundance were the purple and blue hued swamp hens who were pecking at the ground adjacent to the pond with its beautiful lotus flowers. The odour permeated the air but it was bearable and did not leave me with a nose paralysis, nor was the site swarming with flies. I was overwhelmed at the expansive land which was beautifully landscaped and the sign in front which read, ‘Karadiyana Waste Management Project (KWMP).’

I was told to meet Kokila Jayatissa, Board Member of WMA and Co-Chair of the Waste Management Resource Network (WARN) Team who directed me to Dhanuka Wijeratne, Project Manager. He was in a compact container which had been converted to an office space.

Dhanuka, who is a staunch believer that waste should be managed with precision, accompanied me on the tour and patiently explained the process in layman’s terms to this fresher who had no idea that waste management requires such meticulous attention to detail.

Waste Not, Want Not

“The plant at Karadiyana is a 37 acre land which was privately owned and managed as a waste site by private establishments without proper vision, hence when the government appointed management had taken over on July 6, 2010 it was not a sanitary landfill as the one in Dompe. Therefore we had to make do with what was available and think innovatively in order to make the process flow without a hindrance and cause minimum discomfort to the environs and the residents. The very first matter we addressed was the vehicular traffic to and from the dump site, which took 45 to 50 as there was no internal road network. Initially we used old rail tracks to create a roadway and later construction and demolishing waste (C&D Waste). This has created a fast and effective turn-around period which takes a mere two to three minutes for a truck to dump the garbage and return to the weighing point.”

I was amazed to see the mounds of garbage being piled up systematically in a step method with a 60 percent slope. The piles are categorized as bio-degradable garbage which consists of kitchen waste and the other as mixed garbage which goes through the hands of recycle collectors is further used for land fill.

Dhanuka explained the advantages of the step method, “in addition to creating a stronger foundation which makes it impossible for a collapse to occur, it lessens the garbage pile up considerably.”

What I further noticed is the black earth like matter which covered the piles reducing the harshness of a garbage dump. This earth which I saw was none other than the residue of compost and created fertile ground. This method has two significant results which is the odour absorption and the visible factor.

Upon further inspection of its environs I was blessed to see a rare sight; a crocodile basking by the side of the lake. According to Dhanuka this proves the fact the wildlife is not greatly affected by the garbage content which flows into the lake, as it is filtered by many factors such as the aquatic plants on either side of the lake. The whole area is lush due to the compost content which serves as fertilizer for these plants.

Smart Waste Management

Thereafter, he gave me a tour of the 10 acres of land allocated for the waste to energy project which is underway. It is yet another innovative venture by these far-thinking individuals of the KWMP.

There was another piece of valuable information with regard to gases that are produced due to the accumulation of waste such as Meethane, NOX, SOS, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Nitrogen dioxide and more and in order to avoid this we need to create a well from one metre upwards to 20m to avoid sudden fires which spark due to the build-up of gases which evaporates through these circular contraptions.

“The embankments too pose a problem for the people so we maintain a slope of 60% in pyramid shape, steps method and this prevents landslides or garbage slides from occurring.

We additionally use compost plant refuse or rejection residue and wood shavings to reduce the height and weight of the garbage mounds and this also serves as a visual barrier.

In order to control the spread of mosquitoes, flies and bad odour within a 500m radius we spray a MOH recommended chemical bi – weekly to the active sights. Every three to four months we rotate the dumping of garbage from one area to the next in order to prevent the excess garbage pile-up etc and this particular area is known as an active sight.

During the dengue epidemic which claimed so many victims the area surrounding the garbage dump had a relatively small amount of dengue patients.

Technicians from the Sri Jayawardanepura University do a bi-month water sample check of our surrounding waterways to determine the purity and clarity of the water.

KWMP receives 550 to 600 metric tons of garbage from seven electorates; Moratuwa, Dehiwala, Galkissa, Kotte Maha Nagara Sabhawas, Kesbewa and Maharagama Nagara Sabhawa, and from a section of the Homagama Pradeshiya Sabha.

The waste which is categorized into mixed and organic should be done at the source. This was not the case a few years back, yet we have introduced a tipping fee of 25% for organic waste. The local authorities have to inform the people to separate the waste and this in turn enables them to reduce the cost which has to be borne by them. With the introduction of this regulation there has been a drastic change for the better. So if organic waste from the total municipality solid waste amounts to 60% the cost can be reduced and a profit made, hence it could be called profit oriented waste and this has proved to be a 100% effective method. For instance in the beginning of 2016 we only had 1000- 1500 metric tons of organic waste but now we collect about 4000-5000 metric tons of organic waste per month.

The next phase of our tour took us to the impressive building which houses the compost plant. There were pretty flowers blooming on either side of the entrance to the plant, and within it were piles of garbage in various stages of degradation. Approximately 150 – 160 metric tons of garbage is subject to composting per day due to limitations. The windrow method of composting is followed due to the large volumes of compost. It is done by piling organic matter or biodegradable waste, such as animal manure and crop residues, in long rows (windrows). The waste is subject to 03 stages of degradation. An aerobic digestion process is followed, which enables the flow of oxygen so as to allow the microorganisms to consume the waste. The temperature varies from 50? c to 70? c and at every stage the microorganisms are needed. Every particle has to be broken down and this could be achieved within a period of 15 week. Subsequently, it is sent through the automatic sieve. The compost which is less than 4mm is packaged into bags which range from 5kg, 10kg, 20kg and 50kg in weight. The compost which is more than 4mm is set aside as ‘rejection’ and used to cover the garbage dumps.

A few meters away from the compost plant was a mini weather station set up by the Meteorological Centre and operated according to the new research methods followed by the Met Department. The information we gather is important for the daily function of the dump site as we are made aware of the wind direction, rain fall, wind speed etc. This was set up last August and the data obtained is further utilized by students and researchers alike,” stated Dhanuka.

After this explanation, we walked towards a beautiful waterway which is bordered by the gabion wall. We wish to encourage water sports on this lake along with a jogging track in order to promote leisure activities and abolish the age old phobia pertaining to garbage.

The last part of the tour led us to the pond nearby as I was fascinated by the vibrant colours of the swamphens. I tried to capture some images of them on my phone on close range but the moment I approached the birds they would fly off into the dense covering of the swamp. Dhanuka further explained the leechate draining method used by the dump, “we use wide drains and sporadically dug pits for evaporation and sedimentation, which makes the water in the pond clear and clean. As mentioned before the wetlands also have a natural ‘filteration’ in terms of aquatic plants.

The Challenges

The tour ended at Dhanuka’s office with Kokila joining in the interview as they further explained many facts and mentioned the challenges they face despite all the work that is done to minimize the strain on the people in the vicinity of the dump.

“As yet there are a set of people who cover their noses and look at the site with absolute distaste, basing their prejudices on age old myths surrounding garbage dumps. Just after the Meethotamulla garbage dump collapse, Madame Ruwini, the Chairperson of the Waste Management Authority of the Western Province accompanied us as we visited the residents and inquired about their state of mind and gave them the assurance that this site was not under threat, to which they responded positively. Yet, within a short duration their emotions and fears were stirred by a set of individuals and it resulted in an unwarranted strike and frenzy which took days to resolve and brought the dumping of garbage to a standstill.

Sometimes we tend to become discouraged as our efforts are not appreciated, but we strive on dutifully. This site is one of the most industrious, with staff strength of 35 staff members inclusive of 05 graduates. We are always on the lookout for obtaining and practicing new methodologies to emanate the stench and the adverse effects of dumping garbage which has clearly resulted in a positive trend and will be notably felt in the future. This site is commended as an exemplary replica of the ideal waste management site for Sri Lanka by none other than some of the globally acclaimed sites.

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About Rochelle Gunaratne

I believe that everyone has a story to tell and in turn, I love listening to those stories, attempting to paint a picture to my readers with my words. I may not be an artist or painter, but I believe words can create powerful images in ones mind and it is how we share our stories with others.
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