Imported Rubbish Scam
Sri Lanka is a key member state in the Basel Convention of the control of Transboundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal. Sri Lanka signed and ratified the convention in 1992. But it was controversy on the level of action within the country when 130 containers of hazardous waste from UK were discovered from Colombo Port last month.
United Kingdom which is a country signatory for Basel convention has also violated the international law by sending the waste to Sri Lanka without any approval. The Article 4 of Basel Convention clearly stated that a signatory country intending to ship waste to another signatory country has to seek permission from the importing country, before any shipment could be moved. United Kingdom is also conducting an investigation on the garbage which was imported to Sri Lanka.
According to reports since during 2017-2018 Sri Lanka received 241 containers from UK. 130 containers been kept in free trade zone in BOI. 111 containers are under probe by Sri Lanka customs. The containers contained clinical waste, human body parts, used cushion and mattresses, plant parts, plastic waste and other hazardous waste. Due to the health damage caused by the rubbish imported from United Kingdom many civil society organizations came forward and took the case to courts local and international courts. Centre of Environmental Justice was the first organization to send a petition to courts for a verdict. CEJ states that garbage from other countries is against the law and authorities have not taken proper measures to identify the persons responsible for the relevant shipment.
According to customs 4 parties already identified the BOI, Hayley’s Free Zone, ETL Colombo limited, and Ceylon Metal Processing. Meanwhile CEA states that Hayleys Free zone was ordered immediately to send the waste back to UK. The order also claims that no liquid or other effluent liable to pollute the environment should be prevented. The responsible company have operated since 2014 as an international import and export centre. Director General of Central Environment Authority said legal action will be taken against the importers of containers containing industrial waste without a proper license.
Meanwhile Hayleys free zone states that it had no connection for the containers lying in port of Colombo. But the company had processed and re-exported 29 containers out of the 130 container loads in Hayleys free zone. The company also said that 130 container loads of used mattresses were imported by Ceylon Metal Processing Corporation who is also the actual owner of the shipment. The CEO of Ceylon Metal Processing claims that he is not aware of the situation and the company does not have access as it is a free zone of Hayleys which is not under their operations. The company further stated that they only added their containers to keep the mattresses and carpets only. According to Ceylon Metal Processing, the garbage is owned by a supplier in west of UK named Vengaads limited, It was revealed that an Individual named Vegadasan Muthukumar a shareholder of Vengaads is a co director of Ceylon Metal Processing company. In response to the statements made by officials of Celyon Metal Processing, Hayleys free zone states that owners of garbage consignments found in both katunayake free trade zone and Colombo port. It is a very unclear process on how the garbage was imported to the country and it is fact that many sectors are now trying to create income generation by importing garbage violating the Basel convention article 4.