The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) - India, in joint cooperation with the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), organized an African - South Asian Conclave on Waste Management, with the aim of providing for cross-country learning to understand the challenges and issues concerning waste management in Africa and South Asia and building a network on waste management for research, capacity building and sharing of best practices. The Conclave was held from 25th to 27th of February 2016 in Colombo, which was inaugurated in the presence of Ms. Sunita Narain - Director General of CSE, Mr. Kartik Pandey, First Secretary - Indian High Commission of Sri Lanka, , Prof. Lal Mervin Dharmasiri - Chairman of CEA, and Mr. K.H. Muthukuda Arachchi - Director General of CEA

The major highlights of the workshop were

  • Workshop attended by experts from eleven African countries, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India

  • Experts say there is a serious need to reinvent waste management

  • Dearth of appropriate technologies, misuse or uninformed use of existing technologies, no guidelines or legislation that enforces segregation at source, that discourages landfills

  • No pressures to prioritize recycling, reuse, and reinvent

  • Acknowledgement to informal sector

  • South-South co-operation to resolve the issues and challenges concerning solid waste management

The experience-sharing conclave brought together 21 key functionaries from the environmental authorities and municipalities of eleven African countries- Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi, Swaziland, Nigeria, Egypt and Zambia; and three countries in South Asia- India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. 

During the discussion, it came out that the suggested technologies for waste management are unaffordable. Developing countries do not have that amount of capital. Also, a huge informal sector, almost 2% of the total’s world’s population is involved in waste related activities, and they are left unaccounted. 

Also, there were discussions on the wide growing packaging sector. Packaging is the largest and most rapidly growing category of solid waste. More than 30% of municipal solid waste is packaging, and 40% of that waste is plastic. This is a serious problem.

Most contemporary waste management efforts are focused at local government level and based on high tech/high energy waste disposal by methods such as landfill and incineration. However these methods are becoming increasingly expensive and energy inefficient. The financial costs of managing the long-term environmental impacts of waste disposal are many times what is actually charged for this service and in many cases corrective action is not remotely feasible.

The three day conclave focused on the following guiding principles: Firstly, landfills cannot be the focus of waste management, one need to look beyond dumpsites and spending huge capital on transportation of waste to landfill sites; if so, put a tax on landfills, charge high tipping fee. Also, it the participating countries agreed upon the fact that segregation at source is a must, to make use of the resource that our solid waste is. Also, one needs to recycle, reuse and involve informal sector at every step of waste management.

The three-day conclave emphasized to understand the issues and challenges, legislative framework, technologies adopted and best practices concerning waste management in fourteen participating countries. The participants also visited decentralized solid waste management facility in Kalutara, Western Province, Sri Lanka; Engineered sanitary landfill facility in Dompe and South Asia’s only CFL recycling facility in Pitipana.

Outcome of the programme: The South-South co-operation established through this conclave shall exchange information, lay emphasis on capacity building initiatives- training and research concerning solid waste management. Further, CSE shall take the lead in mapping legislations, best practices, status of waste management in the participating countries and capacity building.