Green levy will not be misused: Minister

By Madhushala Senaratne

Funds generated from the new Environment Conservation Levy Act would be utilized for the purpose of managing electrical waste and the money credited to a separate account, Central Environment Authority (CEA) Chairman Udaya Gammanpila told The Sunday Times.

According to the Environment Conservation Levy Act introduced this month taxes are to be imposed on mobile phones, transmission towers, electrical bulbs over 40 watts excluding CFL bulbs and on certain motorcycle and vehicle categories consisting of internal combustion engines.The Government hopes to collect between Rs. 500 and Rs. 800 million from this levy and the funds generated will be used for managing electrical waste (establishing a network and recycling of such items) and for creating awareness among the public on the health hazards and the need to recycle such material.

“There are allegations that although the Government imposes levies, funds generated from it are not used for intended purposes”, Mr. Gammanpilla said, adding that certain measures have been introduced to ensure that the funds collected are used accordingly.

“Funds will be credited to a separate account called the Environment Conservation Levy Account. In addition, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Environment would jointly submit a report to Parliament detailing how the money generated from the levy was spent”, Mr. Gammanpila said.
He said the Environment Conservation Council set up by the CEA would monitor the spending of money for different projects.

Mr. Gammanpilla said the levy would not be a burden to the people who are already suffering from the rising cost of living and the spending capacity of people was taken into account when enacting the law.
A 2% tax would be imposed on both paid and pre-paid mobiles phones from August 15.

Companies using transmission towers for TV and radio transmissions as well as for telecommunication purposes would have to pay Rs. 50,000 annually while if the tower is being shared they would have to pay Rs. 25,000 each.

A tax of Rs. 3 will be charged for electric bulbs of over 40 watts while the tax will be as follows for motorcycles and motor vehicles:

For motorcycles Rs. 100, for petrol motor cars Rs. 200 to Rs. 500, for diesel cars from Rs. 300 to Rs. 800. However, vehicles such as lorries, buses and three-wheelers which run on diesel will not be taxed even though they contribute much to air pollution, as they are used by the majority of the public and the tax on them would be a burden on the people.

“Out of around seven million mobile phones in the country, 90% of mobile phone users are pre-paid costumers and their average bill stands at Rs. 360, while the average bill of post-paid costumers is Rs. 1500. Therefore 90% of mobile phone users pay less than Rs. 1000 per month and the tax would account for only Rs. 20. You can’t even buy a loaf of bread for Rs. 20 now,” he said.

“This is just a minimal amount and it is like a medical insurance”, Mr. Gammanpilla said, adding that mobile phones contain harmful acids, which, if not disposed of properly would cause health problems.
He said Sri Lanka is under international obligation as signatory to the Rio Declaration, which states that polluters should bear the cost of pollution. “We are already late in implementing this measure, which has been taken with the aim of working towards conserving this planet for the future generation,” he said.

Mr. Gammanpilla said the proposed ‘green levy’ tax of Rs. 20 a month was to be charged from every household with a vehicle, a telephone and electricity was dropped, as it was not manageable.

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