By : Chalani Rubesinghe (Bsc. Nat. Sc., MSc.Env.Sc)
CEJ has been working with waste collectors and sanitary service employees for a long time in various, research, surveys and workshops. During the Covid 19 pandemic period their work is much highlighted as proper waste management is one essential component in controlling the spread of the disease. Especially when both suspected and infected people are house quarantined.
In appreciating their service, Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) together with Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) arranged a small token of appreciation for waste colleting, and cleaning staff at Maharagama Urban council of Colombo District, Sri Lanka Yesterday (21st October 2021). A bag of food items together with a packet of masks were given to 200 staff members composed of 12 women and 188 men engaged in said services.
The sanitary workers often pay less attention to their health. Specially in comparison to the stipend, they would spend it on food and other essentials rather than on PPEs. As they cannot afford to have face masks, they keep using the same for days and increase the vulnerability which intern affects their household economy. Thus, it was decided to provide them with basics to recover the financial crisis by providing them with Masks and a few food items, as a token of appreciation while raising awareness on benefits of using them as well as proper waste management.
The vise-President Mr. G.A.S. Priyarathna, Chief Secretary, Mr. W.T. Aruna De Dias, Chief engineer, Mr. M.A.T. Nishantha, Public Health Inspectors, Mr.M.P.M. Prabhakara and Mr. R.P. Sepala, Mr. M.K. Susil Premasiri and Mr. S.D. Damith Sanjeewa, of the urban council participated at the event. Mr. Gamini Piyarathna the Program Coordinator of CEJ made all the program arrangements together with Madushani Sendanayaka, the project coordinator, Melisha Fernando, Events and Outreach officer and Yohani Hatharasinghe Management Assistant.
At the program, Mr. Dilena Pathragoda, Executive Director, CEJ spoke about CEJ work and the purpose of the event and Ms. Chalani Rubesinghe, Program planning and mgt, Officer explained the importance of proper waste collection and disposal with special focus on collecting Covid related waste. Then speaking, officers from the Urban council also appreciated this group of frontline waste and sanitary staff for the risk they take in waste collection and disposal during the time of pandemic. They reminded that the staff was greatly affected when more than half got infected with the disease and somehow managed to stand back to regular services.
Amongst their speeches, the chief Engineer appreciated CEJ for Its environmental services including litigation for the betterment of environment and strengthening environmental laws and thereby strengthening environmental conservation. He also appreciated taking a step to appreciate this frontline staff amongst our litigation work, saying that seldom an organization would have that kind of a work span.
CEJ is thankful to GAIA for their Covid-19 Relief and Advocacy Funds 2021, that enabled this event.