Kelani River the most polluted in Sri Lanka – TAF

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By 2017-10-13

By Paneetha Ameresekere

According to a recent study conducted by The Asia Foundation (TAF), the Kelani River, Sri Lanka's fourth largest river and the main source of drinking water for over four million people living in the Greater Colombo Area, is also the most polluted river in Sri Lanka.

Most of the pollution comes from liquid waste, from companies that operate alongside the river, as well as agricultural runoff and domestic and municipal waste. An estimated 3,000 businesses, that are required to have an Environmental Protection Licence (EPL), are located on the river banks.

According to water tests conducted by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) near industrial locations, basic safe water quality limits are constantly exceeded, including chemical oxygen demand (36-37% over acceptable standards), dissolved oxygen (27-43% over acceptable standards), biological oxygen demand (7-13% over acceptable standards) and heavy metals (7% over acceptable standards). In August 2015, a significant diesel leak into the river from a

multi-national carbonated drinks manufacturer brought to the fore the hazardous impact that industrial pollution is having on the river, and potentially on communities who rely on the river for their livelihoods. The river remains a vital resource for about 25% of the Sri Lankan population who reside in its catchment area, said TAF. While existing policy and legislation for curtailing industrial pollution exist in Sri Lanka, more effective enforcement is needed, as well as highly stringent monitoring mechanisms to verify that all standards are met.

In late 2015, TAF and Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), a nongovernmental organization (NGO), identified the 40 kilometre stretch between Avissawella and the river outfall north of Colombo as the most polluted area.

TAF and EFL identified 150 sources of pollution, primarily from companies involved in tanning, oil refining, beverages, textiles and clothing, rubber, ceramics, food production, fertilizers, and plastics. These findings were passed on to the CEA.

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