Environmental issue related to Hambanthota Industrial Zone
Posted on November 20th, 2017

Dr. P. Attanayake.

I am writing to bring up an important environmental issue related to Hambanthota Industrial Zone.  If this issue is not addressed now, it may result in serious ecological and human health problems in the near future.

As we all know, foreign companies will be setting up industries in the newly created Industrial Zone (IZ).  Regardless of the industry, most of these facilities will be generating wastes that will be hazardous to the environment and human health.  The area is currently farm land and not likely to contain any toxic substances in significant quantities (perhaps some fertilizers and herbicides may be present) in the soil, water and air.  As we have seen in places such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam, computer chip manufacturing is likely to be one of the major industries in the IZ.  Poor waste management at such facilities have resulted in environmental disasters in many places around the world.  Silicon Valley in California, is a good example.  The soil and water resources in many parts of the Silicon Valley are beyond cleanup.  Cancer causing industrial solvents such as TCE, PCE are used extensively in these facilities and if discharged with no controls, they can be present in the soil and water for many decades.  These contaminants are long lived and migrate in the environment for long distances.  Once contaminated, cleaning up is almost impossible.  Similarly, air pollution from these manufacturing facilities can travel long distances by air dispersion and affect health of the people down wind of the facilities

This is just one example.  Waste from manufacturing facilities contains many other toxic chemicals that can have adverse effects on the environment and human health.

So here are some of the main issues:

  1. How can we measure the impacts of the industries on the environment?
  2. How can Sri Lanka protect its environment and people from the toxic chemicals that will be byproducts of the industries?
  3. How can we make sure the waste is handled properly and disposed of it properly without impacting our ecology and human health?             .

To answer above questions, Sri Lanka must be proactive.  We have a to act now, before any industry is established.  First, environmental background conditions of the general area must be established.  Then, when a manufacturing facility is proposed, a more industry specific background conditions should be established for the locale area.  That will establish the background environmental conditions so that appropriate authorities can monitor and compare environmental conditions during operation of these facilities against the background to make sure no adverse effects occur.  Second, a rigorous waste management practice should be established and implemented.  The waste management must be industry specific, and the manufactures must identify the industrial chemicals used in their facilities, their quantities.  They also must identify the type and the volume of waste generation and the plan for its disposal.  These plans should be reviewed and approved by appropriate local authorities.

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