Karadiyana – How a signature national project has come to a standstill

The present situation Prior to the inception of the Karadiyana Waste Management project, the landfill consisted of two disposal sites; A and B. A plot of land in extent of 10 acres was allocated adjacent to Site B, which was being used to dispose of waste. The sheer volume of waste that was being dumped was encroaching into the project area when the project was launched.  With the project initiation, the old closed landfill, Site A, was re-opened by the Waste Management Authority as a temporary measure, for the project to progress unimpeded. At present, the re-opened site accepts approximately 60%-70% of the 500 tons per day from 8 local authorities that are legally allowed to dispose of waste at Karadiyana. As a result of an extended delay in the implementation of the Karadiayna Waste Processing Project the temporary  disposal site continues to grow in size and at a rate that is not sustainable. The slopes of this landfill are becoming dangerously steep, echoing the memory of the catastrophe that took place at Meethotamulla two years ago, taking 34 lives. The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) recently issued a report highlighting the precarious situation of the landfill and the danger of a possible collapse if garbage disposal continues at this site at the current rate. The report highlights the current situation, the dangers (steepness of the slopes, geophysical characteristics of the landfill, potential for gas collection and explosion) and the possible consequences and a set of recommendations to the WMA that can lead to full closure of the largest landfill in Colombo district. Where does the Karadiyanan Waste Processing project stand today? Had the Fairway Waste Management Project proceeded as had been planned, according to the schedule that was provided at the time of the award, the facility would have been accepting a limited quantity of waste by July and the full 500 tons/day by not later than November 2019. This is certainly not the case now as the project has been delayed due to various issues that were raised initially by the CEB, followed by the Ministry of Finance and now the Ministry of Power & Renewable Energy, and again by the general Treasury, while the criticality of the issue had been pointed out repeatedly by the concerned authorities to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Power & Renewable Energy and Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development. The developer having spent a total of LKR 1,312 million on the project from site preparation, engineering design, advanced payments and civil works (has completed 90% of the piling work), was forced to stop work and demobilize from the site. It is still waiting for the government, namely the Ministry of Power & Renewable Energy to act on the cabinet decision requesting the CEB to sign a PPA with Fairway Waste Management. Consequences of non-execution of the project: The community in the area continues to bear the brunt of the consequences arising from the landfill and the inaction of the government. The ground and surface water pollution continues unabated and will only get worse with the rains. There are dangerous levels of gas build up as more and more garbage is piled on top. Leachate from the landfill continues to flow in to the surface water bodies around the landfill, namely Weras Ganga that feeds into the Bolgoda River. If the Fairway Waste to Energy project was allowed to proceed as planned and commissioned in October 2019, the landfill could have been reclaimed as a public space in a short span of 4 years allowing its use  for recreational activities (walking path, biking and hiking etc.), as have been achieved with many closed landfills around the world. The inert byproducts from the facility would have been used as a landfill cover as a primary step as recommended by international consultants hired by the developer to recommend reclamation plans. What the Project would have achieved: The successful completion of the project would have addressed comprehensively, the safe disposal of all Colombo South Waste. The project has met the most stringent Environmental, Social and Health requirements required by the World Bank to receive USD 6.7 million through its private financing arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC). It is the only waste project to receive IFC funding. The Karadiyana Waste Processing Project would have been the most advanced Waste processing plant with integrated biological and thermo-physical treatment. It is recognized as a landmark project with its development even cited in international Industry publications.  Timely commissioning of the plant would have ended the exacerbating environmental damage caused by the landfill to be mitigated to a large extent. The Waste Processing facility would have provided enough electricity to power approximately 40,000 households (based on World Bank statistics of average energy use in Sri Lanka), by supplying approximately 83,000,000 kWh/year to the grid. The plant would have been considered a base-load facility as it is designed to operate approximately 8000 hours/year. It would have produced power at a rate significantly cheaper than what is considered to be paid for emergency power today. The project would have addressed two critical issues that the country is facing today in tandem; sustainable waste disposal and electricity generation. However, unfortunately the government is yet to sign the PPA even after obtaining cabinet approval. The project remains at a standstill, as of now. The developer is still hopeful that good sense will prevail and that it will be able to continue albeit the losses that it has incurred.

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