Ships dump 20,000 tonnes of furnace oil annually: Environment Minister Calls for Swift Action to Curb Menace
By Thameenah Razeek
Roughly 20,000 tonnes of furnace oil is illegally dumped into the environment each year by ships docking at Sri Lankan ports, posing serious environmental risks, the Environment Ministry said. Minister of Environment, Mahinda Amaraweera, told a meeting at his Ministry to discuss the purchase of furnace oil from ships by specific groups in Sri Lanka and then release it into the environment in an environmentally-friendly manner.
As a result, the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) notified the Minister that between 20,000 and 25,000 tonnes of furnace oil is dumped in Sri Lanka. Every month 2,000 tonnes are released into the environment. The CEA has given licences to 27 individuals and institutions to use furnace oil in this manner, despite the fact that only four of them have oil refining facilities. According to investigations these businesses can only process 4,800 tonnes of fuel oil every year.
According to officials, the remaining 15, 200 tonnes of furnace oil is dumped into the sludge water and released into the environment without being treated. “These contain extremely toxic heavy metals. The refined oil is sold to a number of consumers for a range of applications. The other key issue is that the Government has lost a substantial amount of foreign currency as a result of this,” Minister Amaraweera explained that Sri Lanka is the only country that pays a high price for waste oil and accepts it into the country.
However, a number of decisions have been made to take swift action in this regard. The Minister directed the launch of a policy initiative with the CEA and the Marine Environment Protection Authority to gather foreign exchange and to only issue furnace oil permits on an annual basis to companies and individuals with refining facilities. An investigation is to be initiated as to how stored fuel oil is released into the environment, as well as immediate regulation of organisations and individuals who have secured fuel oil licences.
Orders were issued to pursue legal action against those who dump furnace oil into the environment, as well as to take steps to increase existing fines and upgrade refinery facilities that the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation intends to build for the oil refinery. In this regard, the Minister urged the CEA to act quickly.