Right to Information Transparency and corruption in public service

The Billions Behind Garbage Disposal in Colombo

K. Prasanna

Recently, there was much controversy regarding garbage disposal in areas under the Colombo Municipal Council. Due to the lack of space to dispose of collected waste in the Colombo district garbage piled up on the streets for days. As a recent initiative, disposed of garbage has been used in generating electricity but the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down garbage collection and disposal once again.

The daily collection of garbage from the areas under the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is estimated to be 550 metric tons. Information obtained through the Right to Information Act (ME / SWM / RTI / 01/2021) regarding the garbage disposal activities of the Colombo Municipal Council revealed that the council spends LKR 1,121,977,327.67 including taxes on District Offices No. 1, No. 2A, and No. 5 for garbage disposal activities each year. The estimate does not include the costs incurred by the Municipal Council. 

Colombo Municipal Council consists of 47 areas placed under six District Offices that oversee the following regions:

District Office No. 1 – From Mattakkuliya to Kotahena West (8 areas)

District Office No. 2A – From Kochchikade North to Kochchikade South (11 areas)

District Office No. 2B – From Fort to Dematagoda (10 areas)

District Office No. 3 – From Wanathamulla to Cinnamon Garden (7 areas)

District Office No. 4 – From Kollupitiya to Havelock City (6 areas)

District Office No. 5 – From Wellawatte North to Wellawatte South (5 areas) 

Also, Cleantech Pvt. Ltd. And Craiglin Pvt. Ltd. have taken contracts for garbage disposal activities in areas under the CMC. In addition, garbage disposal activities are carried out through the labour of the CMC, as well.

In 2020, three District Offices have made the following payments to Cleantech Pvt. Ltd. for its services in garbage collection in the city:  

District Office No. 2A (Fort and Pettah): LKR 373,268,908.30 

District Office No. 2A (Areas except Fort and Pettah): LKR 449,743,545.40 (including tax)

District Office No. 5: LKR 330,577,275.80 (including tax)

To offset service charges, District Office No. 1 has similarly paid Craiglin Pvt. Ltd. LKR 448,489,509.10 in 2020.

The CMC has recruited 512 employees for garbage disposal activities in the areas under its purview. Craiglin employs 71 employees in District Office No. 1 while Cleantech employs 78 employees in District Office No. 2A, 72 employees in District Office No. 2A, and 48 employees in District Office No. 5. The CMC has further allocated 81 employees to District Office No. 2B, 96 employees to District Office No. 3, and 66 employees to District Office No. 4 as permanent cadre.

Furthermore, LKR 250,240,149.02 is spent annually on the salaries of garbage disposal workers in the CMC (excluding employee wage costs in contracting companies). At present, 162 vehicles are used in garbage collection in Colombo. Disposal takes place at the Kerawalapitiya Garbage Yard belonging to the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation and, from 11 January 2021, at the Kerawalapitiya Waste Power Plant.

The collection and disposal of garbage in Colombo happens with high cost. Therefore, those costs can be reduced by preventing the excessive release of waste into the environment. Also, waste can be effectively disposed of by separating it into polythene, paper, food waste, and glass. The smaller steps in realizing the dream of a cleaner Colombo are well within our control.

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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