Air Quality TechCamp in Kathmandu


Clean Air for South Asia Techcamp in Kathmandu

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal, in partnership with Kathmandu Living Labs, organized a two-day South Asia Air Quality Tech Camp on July 30-31st.

U.S. Embassy in Nepal, in partnership with Kathmandu Living Labs, organized a two-day South Asia Air Quality TechCamp on July 30-31st, accompanied with world-class trainers and 60 participants from seven South Asian countries: Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives and Pakistan.

Sri Lankan Participants in TechCamp, Kathmandu
Photo: US Embassy Kathmandu/Flickr

The aim of the camp was to address political, social, and scientific facts of the problem and improve the ability of civil society, media, and other influencers to engage governments, empower the public and take action to improve air quality in South Asia.

“Air pollution does not respect national boundaries,” US Ambassador to Nepal, H.E. Randy W. Berry pointed out the regional cooperation required to solve the issue of air pollution.

Photo: US Embassy Kathmandu/Flickr

Participants and trainers from 10+ countries selected topics under, What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work on air quality?

  • Reliable Data/Access to Data
  • Regulations/Enforcement of Existing Regulations
  • Proper Monitoring Systems or Collection of Data
  • Awareness/Targeting the Right Audience
  • Coordination: Among Stakeholders or Across Borders
Proper Monitoring Systems/Collection of Data – Group Discussion Facilitators: Neelam Azmat, Santosh Gartaula Photo: Kathmandu Living Labs

We selected one topic with a challenge we identified in our work and dived into the first round of discussions. In Sri Lanka, we have monitoring systems based on BAM and Low-Cost Sensors. But we need to have a proper monitoring network combining the region.

Speed Geeking

We spent five minutes with each trainer in 14 small groups. The trainers shared their stories of using a particular technology/strategy to address air pollution.

Photos: Piushani Ellegala

Author: Ms Piushani Ellegala

Disasters Forewarned due to Ill-Planned and Badly Executed Landfill in Wilpattu Buffer


Disasters Forewarned due to Ill-Planned and Badly Executed Landfill in Wilpattu Buffer

We visited the vicinity of the Aruwakkalu area which has been a matter of threats, protests and a controversial project by a blacklisted Chinese company which is being rushed through by the Ministry of Megapolis under Minister Champika Ranawaka to transfer Colombo Garbage to Puttalam District (Daily Mirror, 15, 2019).

Aruwakkalu Landfill site

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development has proposed to develop a landfill in Aruwakkalu (in the Puttalam district), with a waste transfer station in Kelaniya, as a necessary alternative solution for the municipal solid waste disposal problem faced mainly in the Colombo Metro Region and in the Grater Colombo Area largely. The plan is to transfer the garbage using rail transport from Colombo to the proposed landfill site at Aruwakkalu, at a rate of 1200 tons per day, covering a distance of 170 km one way. However, the landfill is open to other local authorities in the Greater Colombo and the local authorities in Puttalam.

Aruwakkalu Landfill, reservation and buffer zones
Aruwakkalu Landfill, reservation and buffer zones

Final report, EIAR For the Proposed Project on Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management, MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT, WATER SUPPLY AND DRAINAGE, Central Environmental Authority, August 2015  (pp15-21) – link 

Proposed landfill site
Proposed landfill site

Final report, EIAR For the Proposed Project on Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management, MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT, WATER SUPPLY AND DRAINAGE, Central Environmental Authority, August 2015  (pp15-21) – link 


Aruwakkalu-Wilpattu Buffer

Mr. Barr Kumarakulasinghe is a environmental scientist. In the discussions Mr. Kumarakulasinghe highlighted threats to the water ways, ecosystem and wildlife particularly to three adjacent areas as the garbage Processing center is situated in a critical area.


  • Puttalam lagoon through leaching from the groundwater – this shall affect the fisheries and ecosystem
  • Kala Oya basin as the garbage processing center is 3km from the Kala Oya – water can be contaminated.
  • Wilpattu Forested Area which is six km away to which there is a threat from aquatic contamination through the groundwater and for the wildlife.

Different types of aquifers in Sri Lanka
Different types of aquifers in Sri Lanka (Panabokke and Perera, 2005)

Ground Water: The capping of the sanitary landfill is to be made of cement, it may crack as a result of dynamite blasting in the nearby area by Holcim and INSEE cement companies and if it cracks the effluents will end up in the waterways and groundwater.

Further, he says, the rain in the locality can be intense for brief periods -maybe 2000 mm for one and a half months – it will lead to overflowing of the landfill and we need to address the risk of leaching into the aquifers as well.




Discussions with Mr. S.M. Mubarack

Mr. S.M. Mubarack

Mr. S.M. Mubarack is an environmentalist and a development planning officer, who has looked in to in-depth in development planning projects in the area over the years. Puttalam has been the butt of past projects with disastrous environmental impacts and he raises the issue of environmental racism in how projects are handled. The project to bring garbage to Aruwakkalu is the latest.

Site with Dangers

Aruwakkalu is the most unsuitable land to have the sanitary landfill or even open dumping, because what they are doing is on top of the limestone quarry which would not bear the load built up of 1200MT per day according to the Megapolis Ministry.

Shady Dealings

Even though the EIA says the loading will be for ten years the minister say eighty years and the funds for this project would be raised from the World bank and AIIB (Chinese bank) and the whole project is said to be estimated to be USD 274 Million, which in his opinion is much more of a building program than a garbage management program and knowing that the contract was given to a company (CHEC) which is a blacklisted company by the World Bank where the World Bank has withdrawn USD 115 million and USD 44 million was to be contributed by the government of Sri Lanka.

He further added, that the conditions that have been laid down by the Central Environmental Authority as part of the EIA are being completely violated and they are supposed to bring the garbage by train but, now they are coming by trucks.

Lack of Community Consultations

One of the integral parts of the EIA is community consultation, but, they have consulted about fifteen people at Kelaniya where the transfer station is and considered only two people from Aruwakkalu area, one of them is a Buddhist priest and the other is a farmer. Not a single local authority from the Puttalam area sends the garbage to Aruwakkalu but the unsorted garbage is sorted and the stinking garbage is brought from Kuliyapitiya urban council area is dumped at the Aruwakkalu site. For the whole project, the people and the Pradeshiya Sabha chairman and the members have objected, but Minister Champika is trying to implement everything in a dictatorial manner, he says.
Apart from that, they have consulted some government servants including Grama Sevakas who have said there is no problem without even knowing the integral parts of the garbage management.

References –

  1. Barr-Kumarakulasinghe, S, Colombo, Meethotumulla Garbage is not to Puttalam but the Wilpattu, October 14, 2015, Blogpost.
  2. Barr-Kumarakulasinghe, S, Colombo, Update – Colombo Garbage to Wilpattu, October 14, 2015, Blogpost.
  3. Kamanthi Wickramanasinhghe, Aruwakkalu Landfill Project Another White Elephant, Daily Mirror, 14 August 2019.
  4. Malaka Rodrigo, Environmentalists derail garbage train to Aruwakkalu, Sunday Times, October 4, 2015.
  5. Environmental Impact Assessment Report of the Proposed Project on Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management, Ministry Of Megapolis and Western Development, August 2017.

Does Air Pollution from Norochcholai Power Plant reach the Hills and Colombo?

Does Air Pollution from Norochcholai Power Plant reach the Hills and Colombo?

The theme of Environment Day globally has been designated by UN agencies as “#BeatAirPollution” to highlight the rapidly deteriorating quality of air particularly in urban areas. FECT has been working on understanding the inter-related roles of climate and air quality and their impact on environment and society.
This video presents aspects of our Air Quality work on
  • the instrumentation in the Western Sri Lanka region between Puttalam, Kandy and Colombo districts
  • Use of Internet enabled real time pollution monitoring
  • Analysis to detect pollution characteristics
  • Modeling to assess transport of pollution

2019 w/ theme In , we find alarming rise in air pollution in Puttalam, Nawalapitiya & Colombo from using instruments of &

ඉහත වීඩියෝවේ සිංහල අනුවාදය සඳහා මෙය දිග හරින්න

වායු දූෂණය පරාජය කරමු

බොහෝ රටවල වායු ගුණාත්මකභාවය තවමත් බරපතල පරිසර තර්ජනයක් ලෙස නොසලකයි. මෙම වීඩියෝ පටයේ FECT විසින් අපගේ වායු ගුණාත්මක වැඩ පිළිබඳ සාරාංශයක් අඩංගු වන අතර එමඟින් මෙම වායු දූෂණය අපගේ නරඹන්නන්ගේ අවධානයට යොමු කිරීමට අපි බලාපොරොත්තු වෙමු.

Article on World Environment Day theme for this year “Beat Air Pollution”

Beat Air Pollution


By Sujeewa Fernando

Today is the World Environment Day, which was initiated by the United Nations in 1974, to commemorate the inception of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the decision to initiate UNEP was taken at the conference on Environment in Stockholm, Sweden. in 1972.

World Environment Day encourages action for protection of the environment. This event is widely celebrated all over the world, in more than 100 counties. This is a day to draw attention of the policy makers to conserve the environment and for all others to get involved in activities related to protection of the environment, individually, locally, nationally or globally.

The Theme for this year is “Beat Air Pollution”, where air pollution has become a severe environmental concern all over the world. This year the global host country is China, a country with high air pollution, where it is expected to high light the issues in relation to the theme and support taking action to solve them. Delhi city of our neighbouring country too is a well known city with high air pollution.

It has also been found that nine out of ten people in the world are living under polluted atmospheric conditions, or breathing polluted air, where seven million people worldwide die prematurely each year due to air pollution and four million are from Asia Pacific region.

Air pollution was generally linked with respiratory and heart diseases, but now it has been found that it can cause, diabetes, dementia impaired cognative development and lower intelligence levels.

Sri Lanka emphasize on “Minimization of Air Pollution through Sustainable Forest Management” where trees absorb carbon dioxide, other pollutants and release oxygen, purifying air. Therefore by increasing the forest cover, or growing trees we can minimize air pollution. At present Sri Lanka has a forest cover of 29.7% and it is expected to increase it up to 32% by 2030. Phytoplanktons (small micro plants) in the sea too absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.

The main event in Sri Lanka will be held at the BMICH, on June 6, under the patronage of the President and the Minister of Environment Maithripala Sirisena. An “Environment Week’ was declared from May 30 to June 5.

May 30 Day of Cleaning Environment and raising Awareness on Environment.

May 31 Day of minimizing Air Pollution and its Harmful effects

June 01 Tree Planting Day

June 02 Water and Water Sources Conservation Day

June 03 Biodiversity Conservation Day

June 04 Sustainable Land Management Day

June 05 World Environment Day

All the agencies under the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Enviornment has implemented many programmes thoughout the country through their central and regional offices to commemorate this event during the “ Enviornment Week”.

The agencies are Central Enviornmental Authority, Mahaweli Authority, Forest Department, Geological and Mines Bureau, Gem & Jewellery Authority, Gem and Jewellery Research and Training Institute, State Timber Corporation, Coast Conservation Department, Marine Enviornment Protection Agency, Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau. In addition the general public, private sector, Non Governmental Agencies, Community Based Organizations too has joined hands in implementing programmes.

Air pollution occurs when the air gets contaminated with physical, chemical or biological agents and becomes harmful to animals, plants and human beings. Some of the main pollutants are Particulate Matter (PM) or generally known as very small dust or other particles, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Ozone gas, Nitrogen Dioxide and Sulphur Dioxide. Methane gas is emitted from waste dumps due to fermentation of bio degradable waste.

Air pollutants like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone are major green house gases, which causes global warming and climate change.

Biological agents like bacteria, fungi too can contaminate the air causing many diseases.

The main cause of air pollution in the country is vehicular emissions. Industrial emissions, burning of waste, accumulation of waste, (waste dumps), construction activities, spraying of chemicals, forest fires are some of the other causes of air pollution.

Indoor air pollution is somewhat a neglected area, which needs attention. The pollutants are two to five times more concentrated in indoors and as many people are living indoors for longer periods during the day, it is important that we pay our attention to improve the air quality indoors.

Cooking with firewood without proper ventilation, fumigating indoor unnecessarily, spraying low quality chemical fragrances, paints, chemicals, inadequate cleaning of dust can cause indoor air pollution. Unhealthy indoors can cause sick building syndrome, with symptoms like headaches and vomiting fatigue.

Air quality is degraded in the Colombo city due to vehicular emissions, industries and dust due to constructions. Kandy and Kurunegala are two cities surrounded by mountains and rocks respectively causing accumulation of air pollutants. Most of the major cities face air pollution issues due to traffic congestions.

Air pollution can mainly be minimized by proper maintenance of vehicles, to minimize emissions, by controlling and purifying industrial emissions, minimizing burning of waste specially plastics and polythene, which emits carcinogenic gasses, namely dioxin and furan.

Indoor air pollution can be minimized by improving ventilation in kitchens and using improved cooking stoves. Minimizing unnecessary fumigations and spraying of chemicals.

Vertical Forest gardens are introduced to improve air quality in cities, where plants/trees are grown on high rising buildings.


Sri Lankan experience of greening the buildings with growing plants.

NASA has recommended ten indoor plants which are capable of absorbing not only Carbon Dioxide but also carcinogens like, benzene, xylene and formaldehyde. Let us take action to minimize air pollution to protect the environment and human health.

The writer is an Assistant Director, Environment Pollution Control and Chemical Management Division, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment.







Aruwakkalu Landfill to accept garbage from Puttalam district

Aruwakkalu Landfill to accept garbage from Puttalam

Source – Link

By Disna Mudalige

The Aruwakkalu Sanitary Landfill site will accept garbage collected from all local authorities in the Puttalam district from March 15, Megapolis and Western Development Ministry Secretary Nihal Rupasinghe said.
In the wake of growing ‘hartal’ and other protest campaigns by the area residents with only a month remaining to the commissioning of the landfill, the Ministry Secretary took pains to dispel the doubts and fears harboured against the project.
Speaking to the media along with the project consultants, Rupasinghe firmly defended the project detailing on its scientific and technical aspects and the special precautions taken to avoid environmental and health hazards.
The Metro Colombo Solid Waste Management Project was commenced as a durable solution to the garbage problem in Colombo following the Meethotamulla tragedy in 2017.
Rupasinghe said Phase I of the much-needed project has now been completed and the Ministry has decided to initially accept garbage in the Puttalam district to the landfill.
“About 160 tonnes of garbage is collected daily in the Puttalam district and the current system of waste disposal in the area is open dumping and burning. This leads to many environmental and health hazards and we could observe that the leachate was leaking to the streets. People in Puttalam have got nothing to object to the landfill site as it also provides a scientific solution to their own garbage problem,” Rupasinghe said.
“People panic because they are not familiar with the technological aspects of it and are misled by wrong information. I ask those protesting against the landfill to come up with one justifiable reason for their objections,” Rupasinghe said.
“The Aruwakkalu Landfill will be fully completed by the end of this year and it can accommodate 1,200 tonnes of garbage per day. Once the Kelaniya Transmission Station is built, garbage collected in the Colombo, Dehiwala and Kolonnawa Municipal Councils will be transported from Kelaniya to Aruwakkalu in sealed containers via train. Four new train engines for the purpose have already been ordered from China,” he explained.
He pointed out that the Kelawarapitiya site where garbage is now being disposed would reach its full capacity in a few months’ time and an alternative durable solution is needed urgently. He said waste to energy projects in Karadiyana and Kelawarapitiya, each with a capacity to generate 10 MW, would be completed by another two years.
“However, the landfills are cost effective than waste to energy projects. As estimated waste to energy projects cost about Rs.7,000 per a tonne of garbage, while the landfill only costs Rs 3,000 per a tonne of garbage,” he explained.
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