Sri Lanka

Limiting environmental damage in Sri Lanka

News and Press Release
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Solid waste at the transfer station being collected by local authorities for safe disposal. © UNOPS

A programme is working to enhance Sri Lanka’s recovery from the 2004 tsunami by improving environmental infrastructure in the coastal district of Ampara.

The Environmental Remediation Programme (ERP) focuses on solid waste management, environmental restoration and improvement of urban surface water drainage. The programme is funded by the European Union and implemented by UNOPS, in collaboration with the local authorities and communities in each stage of the project, from design to completion.

Managing solid waste

Waste can pose significant risks to the environment and public health when not disposed of correctly. The ERP has worked closely with 12 local authorities, establishing an efficient and cost effective system to sustainably collect, transport and treat all of the solid waste generated in Ampara District.

The programme has constructed seven landfill sites, a waste transfer station, four recycling collection centres, three organic composting facilities and over 300 communal concrete bins. In addition, it has enhanced the capacities of local authorities to manage solid waste, and introduced a transparent and fair system of user fees for the waste collection service.

Various awareness raising campaigns and training activities have also been delivered door to door to bring about behavioural change regarding waste disposal at the level of every household, business and institution.

Environmental restoration

In order to mitigate the devastating effects of the tsunami on natural resources such as mangroves, coastal forests, coral reefs, lagoons, estuary systems and agricultural land, environmental restoration has been a major aspect of the ERP. The programme has established windbreaks and cyclone barriers and protected agricultural lands by rehabilitating trees and mangroves, thereby restoring natural shields along the coast and greatly enhancing disaster prevention.

One hundred kilometres of roadside tree planting has been completed, in addition to planting 150,000 coastal plants in Ampara District. Local communities have actively participated in planting and gardening and this has improved the living environment, household income and consumption of garden produce for 1,000 families. In addition, communities living along the coast have planted trees on government land with the programme’s support, and earned subsidiary income through the sale of firewood and biomass for energy and construction timber.

Surface water drainage

Due to its geographical makeup, Ampara District is highly prone to flooding. As the original drainage system in the area was flawed, it has experienced flooding during monsoonal rains and at several other periods, causing severe disruption to the lives of local communities. To improve this situation, the programme designed and constructed nearly 6.7 kilometres of covered concrete drains in the urban area of Kalmunai. This has ensured that the streets are passable during the monsoon season, and the risk of adverse health effects has been significantly reduced.

Mr A.R.S. Arjuna is a shop owner in Kalmunai who has benefited from the drainage project. He said: “Before the project started, for about 3 months of the year the water would come up to our knees. Our children did not like to walk to school in the deep, filthy water, so they would stay at home. With this project, over three kilometres of drainage has been built in this area, allowing the water to run directly into the drains. Our children can now go to school easily.”

Achieving UNOPS contribution goals

During 2010-2013, four high-level contribution goals are defining the work of UNOPS. This project contributes towards the second and fourth contribution goals: Early recovery of communities affected by natural disaster and Environmental sustainability and adaptation to climate change.