LNP – Customs, CEA delaying legal action against importers of foreign waste

Another 242 UK waste containers still lying here

The Sri Lanka Customs and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) have failed to take legal action against the companies responsible for importing 263 containers full of hazardous waste from the United Kingdom.

With more foreign garbage entering the country, this time from Ukraine, environmentalists and authorities are up in arms.

A senior lawyer told The Island that the Attorney General’s Department would soon submit a report to Parliament, spelling out the fact that the  CEA and Customs Department had failed to file legal action against the importers of waste.

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, contacted for comment, told The Island that he would take immediate action.

He also said that such activities should be completely stopped and he would do his utmost to rid the country of foreign waste..

Customs Director Sunil Jayarathna told The Island that a new probe team would be appointed and the CID called in.

He said that the delay was due to a Court order and a Customs inquiry. He said the Customs had not been able to do much for months due to the pandemic and most of the officials were quarantined.

On September 21, some containers of hazardous waste were finally sent back to the United Kingdom after more than a year.

Jayaratne said that the Customs had decided on the penalties. Environmentalists said Rs. 1.6 billion had to be charged from the local agent and a separate penalty imposed on the British company concerned.

Jayaratne said that hazardous waste transfers were against the Basel Convention.

The Customs said that they wanted to send the containers last year back to the UK and awaited the verdict of the Court of Appeal.

Colombo Metal Industries and ITL Colombo Limited imported the hazardous waste.

The containers contained used mattresses, carpets and hospital waste, officials said.

Another 242 containers from Britain, which the government said were holding illegal waste in violation of international law, are lying at the Colombo Port and at a free trade zone outside. They arrived here between 2017 and 2018.

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