The Aruwakkalu Landfill and its Impacts

The Ministry of Defense and Urban Development under the project known as the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP) has planned to construct and operate a semi-aerobic sanitary landfill to dispose of municipal solid waste generated from the Metro Colombo Region. In this respect, it is planned to develop the limestone quarry in Aruwakkalu (in the Puttalam district in the northwestern province), which was abandoned over 20 years ago, into a sanitary landfill to meet city-wide needs. This plan is proposed for at least twenty years with the establishment of a waste transfer station at the Meethotamulla site and using rail transport from Colombo to the proposed landfill site at Aruwakkalu covering a distance of 170 km one way. The MSW is planned to transport at the rate of 1200 metric tons per day.

The pollution in the area is yet to come, in the near future, in the form of municipal solid waste. The chosen site for sanitary landfill is less than 300m from the Puttalam lagoon (which is the second-largest lagoon in Sri Lanka). The Puttalam lagoon is used to produce salt in more than 2700 acres of salt pans. The salt industry provides direct employment for the majority of the families. A significant number depend on prawn farming and apart from these, there are many farmers in the vicinity of the chosen landfill area depending mainly on the tube well for domestic and agricultural water requirements. Their livelihoods will be affected when the pollution from the landfill reaches the above mentioned natural resources.

The Lunu Oya, one of the tributaries of the Kala Oya is located towards the east of the landfill area at Aruwakkalu and it is one of the few pristine mangrove areas in Sri Lanka. Kala Oya provides the largest freshwater volume to the Puttalam lagoon. Puttalam lagoon is the second largest brackish water body and one of the most productive bases in estuaries, being important for fisheries.

It has been clearly shown that this project will have very serious impacts on the pristine mangrove forests in the Kala Oya – Lunu Oya estuary within and adjoining the Wilpattu National Park and Miocene fossil sites at Wedipitiya near Gangewadiya, among many other hazardous impacts on environment and biodiversity.