16th May 1999
Editorial/Opinion| Business| Sports |
zoo takes initiatives to dispose of its refuse effectively
By Chamintha ThilakarathnaLast month's floods brought problems of a different nature to the National Zoological Gardens at Dehiwela. During those rainy days, it was common to see people in the zoo area holding their noses because of the unbearable stink. The strong smell, it was not too difficult to guess, came from the piles of refuse outside the zoo. The stink was not new. The rain merely intensified a problem that has plagued the officials, all through the zoo's 60 year history –How to dispose of the large amount of waste it produces daily.
When the rains came down, the mucky water filled doorsteps in Attidiya where the zoo garbage is dumped. Most of the residents protested vehemently and officials had no option but to heap the rubbish in trucks outside the zoo for three days till the rain stopped.
With the weather gods being kinder now, the problem is no longer acute, but still remains to be addressed. But zoo officials are not leaving matters to chance. Hopefully soon, one can pass the zoo or the Attidiya dump without one's stomach heaving.
"Solving the garbage problem has been at the top of our agenda but we have been unable to provide a lasting solution, until now," Additional Director of the Zoological Gardens, Duminda Jayaratna said.
For months, zoo officials have been attending workshops on waste management and they have been experimenting with effective garbage disposal methods.
"Experiments and general inquiries have proved successful and we hope to launch a waste recycling project by next month. Initial steps have already been taken," Mr. Jayaratna said.
In the last seven years, the zoo has been burning animal residue and other leftover food like meat leftovers that are too unhealthy to be dumped.
The incinerator at the far end of the gardens, has helped reduce the waste by a reasonable amount.
Another machine will shortly be added to the incinerator to cut down the waste by almost 100% and help turn all possible garbage into compost.
The method which is still at an experimental stage is simple yet effective. The objective is to recycle the garbage into fertilizer, then use the fertilizer to grow animal food.
"We have already purchased a 22 acre plot in Gonapola, Horana where we are successfully running a farm. That was the first step in this new project. Step two is to recycle the garbage," the official said.
The bulk of garbage at the zoological gardens is of two types: left-over food and fallen leaves, and animal waste. Some of these are dumped at Dehiwela municipal lands for 150 rupees per truck load.
The daily collection amounts to two truckloads of garbage and the Attidiya dumping ground has in recent times proved to be insufficient. Much of the waste collected, however, is used as fertilizer to the plants in the gardens.
Advisor to the project J.C.Krishnaratna explained that the new project follows an organic waste collecting method.
"The machine has been specifically chosen based on the volume of garbage it would be required to handle on a daily basis. It can handle one ton of garbage an hour. Its function would be to simply shred the garbage into tiny particles. Then, we will keep the particles aside for some days to reduce the moisture by an estimated 50 percent before recycling," he said.
"We have decided on an enzyme treatment method. That is to spray enzymes into the organic matter. Then leave the matter for 18 hours. Turn it over and keep it for a maximum of ten days. At the end of this period the compost will be ready," Mr. Krishnaratna explained.
According to him, experiments in Kandy, where they handle the Kandy municipal waste have proved successful. The enzyme compost would later be combined with the earth at the Gonapola farm to cultivate food for the animals.
"Already we have started to grow fruits such as pineapples, bananas, papaw and king coconut to be fed to the animals. This would undoubtedly cut our expenditure of food for the animals by a large percentage," Zoo administrator, W. S Welikala said.
Visitors to the zoo too, could help in keeping garbage under control.
"We ask the public not to bring any polythene into the zoo for two reasons.
One being that it cannot be recycled and burning would pollute the air
tremendously, and secondly because certain animals, especially the deer,
have been found dead after eating polythene bags left behind or thrown
into the cages with food by visitors," the Additional Director said.
Although many measures had been taken, nothing seems to have helped. "We would like to appeal to all couples who visit the zoo to maintain good behaviour as it is a place for all ages. Everyone should be able to enjoy the environment," Additional Director, Mr.Jayaratna said.