LankaWeb – Decomposition case of the government’s “Organic Country” project

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Courtesy of the Daily Mirror

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi told parliament that Sri Lanka reports 230,000 new kidney and cancer patients every year due to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Breaking down that number, she said that 6,000 kidney patients per year and 54 cancer patients succumb to their tragic illnesses daily. She also said that medical experts in Parliament had confirmed that the latter were due to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
On the same day, June 7, referring to the ban on chemical agricultural inputs, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said at a meeting of heads of district development committees; there can be no turning back. He was quoted by the media telling attendees, although there are protests and opposition, even with difficulty, good things for the people must be done.

The harangue of Minister of Health Wanniarachchi was intended to justify the total ban on agricultural chemical inputs by President Gotabaya. She made a valiant effort to revive the overused and wasted slogan Food Without Poison ”. Yet they do not have a clear source. Nor has any investigation or research proven that chemical fertilizers and pesticides are direct attributes of kidney disease and cancer. What deserves attention, however, is the President’s assurance that the total ban on all chemical farm inputs will continue. All district development committees were invited to work on the development of agriculture with organic agricultural inputs.

The debate has unfortunately been reduced to the immediate substitution of chemical fertilizers with compost or organic fertilizers. Indeed, no attention is paid to the ban on chemical pesticides and weedkillers. Weeding in large plantations as well as in small farms is a major problem which cannot be managed by the employment of labor. The problems associated with this sudden change in agricultural policy lead to many more problems which make this change more complex and complicated than simply substituting one for the other. Although not addressed in any discussion forum, the collection and disposal of solid waste nationwide by local government agencies called Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) forms the basis of a fully organic passage.

“The president had said at a meeting of the heads of the district development committees; there can be no turning back. He was quoted by the media telling attendees, although there are protests and opposition, even with difficulty, good things for the people must be done.

The government’s decision to establish an organic fertilizer manufacturing center in Anuradhapura was announced during the president’s meeting on June 7. Based on its success, it is to be replicated in the 29 Divisional Secretariat (DS) areas of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts. The promise is to establish them before this year’s Maha season, from September to the end of October.

These accelerated projects for large-scale compost production would require larger volumes of solid waste. It is common sense that solid waste volumes cannot be arbitrarily increased in the absence of larger volumes of compost. Composting was introduced to Sri Lanka in the late 1980s with this city-based free market economy promoting high consumption among a growing urban middle class which has led to an increase in the volumes of solid waste, municipalities and communities. city ​​councils had to regularly and constantly collect and dispose of. Disposing of litter in open dumps in nearby areas has created more problems with an unbearable odor, with stray insects, crows and birds, reptiles and dogs frequenting them in increasing numbers and with protests from the residents. Composting was thus thought of as a remedy, integrated into the government policy to reduce imports of chemical fertilizers. To cut short a detailed history of composting in Sri Lanka, the initial effort to promote households to develop compost fertilizers with their kitchen and household waste through the distribution of bins first by CEA and then with partnerships private was useless. Marketing of the compost making was then undertaken by local government agencies and small businesses. Slow progress in market expansion over the years with efforts to improve and increase organic floriculture and fruits and vegetables creating a new profitable niche market in urban society, the demand for compost as an organic fertilizer has increased. It also gave room for a few mid-level companies.

Within solid waste disposal and compost making, the “raw materials” are basically; (1) biodegradable waste recovered from MSW which includes kitchen, household and garden waste, hospital, market and hotel waste (2) agricultural waste which includes poultry manure and litter (3 ) crop residues and agricultural waste, then (4) slaughter – household waste.

Most figures for solid waste and compost production in Sri Lanka are arbitrary. Different sources provide different projections. In the few years 2015 and beyond, the solid waste collected before recovery for reuse and recycling was calculated to be 4.8 billion tonnes per year on average. It should also be said that, much worse than most services, the collection, sweeping, transport and disposal of garbage in Sri Lanka is not efficient and has no defined standards and methods. The total waste collected therefore represents around 60 to 70% of the volume generated. Only about 60 to 80% are biodegradable. There is also a significant difference between the composition of solid waste generated in heavy urban areas and largely rural areas, with seasonal changes as well.

Composting does not depend on anything other than biodegradable waste in the collected waste. In a research paper co-authored by two academics, one from the University of Peradeniya specializing in soil science and the other from the United Nations University in Dresden, Germany, inferred, due to The push for solid waste recycling and a poor understanding of quality and safety issues, many commercial scale compost producers tend to use any biodegradable material that they can easily find in their plants. composters. … .. Any biodegradable material can be composted. But if the raw materials and the composting process are not carefully regulated, it cannot be guaranteed that the end product meets quality and safety standards. (Composting in Sri Lanka: Policies, Practices, Challenges and Emerging Concerns – Warshi S. Dandeniya and Serena Caucci).

“For some desperate reason, government intervention to turn the whole country into organic by the end of the year” would create unattainable demand for compost. “

In another research, one observation is, in addition to hazardous and biomedical waste such as batteries, small electronics, and hospital waste that could release potentially harmful organic and inorganic contaminants into the compost, non-biodegradable materials like plastics. , textiles and polyethylene also present in high volumes in municipal solid waste ”(Arachchi, KHM – Current status of solid waste management and challenges for change. Colombo: National Solid Waste Management Program in Sri Lanka.” – 2016.)

For some desperate reason, government intervention to turn the whole country into organic by the end of the year “would create unattainable demand for compost. Without collection and recovery standards, without regulatory mechanisms and the least regarded final product quality, this new government passion for organic farming ”would not even ensure half of the expected results. Both in terms of harvest and “non-toxic” organic food.
The reason is, while MSDs are not properly collected for toxic waste, the second largest and most readily available poultry manure used in composting, adds toxins never verified. Poultry litter research indicates that unstandardized manure and improperly generated compost procedures are causes of public health concerns that have not been addressed in the past and are causing the concentration pathogens or heavy metals. Poultry litter / manure is a source of determinants of antibiotic resistance and, therefore, poses a silent threat to environmental quality and health. [E.M Herath, A.G.K.N. Palansooriya et al, An assessment of antibiotic resistant bacteria in poultry litter and agricultural soils in Kandy District, Sri Lanka”: Tropical Agricultural Research Journal, 27(4)]

Compost is therefore not safe although it is considered poison-free ”. The local government agencies that account for the total volume of DSM in the manufacture of compost lack the skilled workforce, technology and infrastructure for proper sweeping and separation of toxic materials. No plan has been made for such improvement. The release of potentially harmful organic and inorganic contaminants in the compost “therefore, in the accelerated expansion of state-sponsored market demand, would be a major problem, despite the promise of poison-free foods.”

This raises two major issues for the government and for those who believe this is the answer for our subsistence agriculture and food security ”. The first is the question, can the government make the minimum required compost available in about three months for the NC rice farmer this Maha season? This seems impossible with a half-hearted solid waste collection network in a province that generates only about 10% of the total national solid waste volume annually. The second is that in the absence of serious supervision and at the district level of the making of the compost which is anyway not clean and never free of toxic substances as people generally project, can the government to ensure that the new frenzy for organic fertilizers does not give way to inferior products? This is still an impossible task with a corrupt and inefficient, disgusting state apparatus subject to local politics.
In short, compost or organic fertilizer is not a clean and efficient substitute for chemical fertilizers, although people are told it is and in this country there is no capacity to producing a better “cleaner” product with local government agencies we haven’t even thought of. as a major player in the manufacture of compost in the campaign for a fully organic Sri Lanka before the year 2022. We must not wait anyway to see how the clean food – clean soil campaign is finally taking root in the society. The Maha season of the NC province would certainly be the harbinger.


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