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Friday December 9th, 2022

Residents split on future of Romania’s trash heap ‘time-bomb’

AFP- The towering heap of rubbish at the Pata-Rat landfill in western Romania has been condemned as an "environmental time bomb" but for many of its neighbours, this putrid mountain of refuse is a livelihood — one they want to protect from closure.

 
Looming on the hills near Romania’s fifth-biggest city Cluj-Napoca, the trash heap rises to five storeys high in places, emitting a noxious odour and oozing substances that environmentalists say are poisoning the soil.
 
Children play among the mounds of debris. In fact, they live here.  
 
Dozens of families — mostly from the country’s Roma minority — have made homes in makeshift shacks on the edge of the landfill site, sometimes after being expelled from illegal dwellings elsewhere.
 
While environmentalists and some locals want the site cleaned up, others depend on it for a living, with whole families subsisting on the income they make from recyclable waste that they pick from the heap with their bare hands.
 
Linda Zsiga, 37, and her family were relocated to the site by the city authorities in 2010 to live in a container with no sanitation.
 
She has since managed to find accommodation elsewhere in Cluj and is now an activist for Demos, a new leftist party.
 
Zsiga has made the closure of the site and the rehousing of those who live alongside it a key priority.
 
"No one should have to live here, in such inhuman conditions," she says.
 
The European Commission has demanded the closure of Pata-Rat and has set aside funding for new waste disposal systems to eliminate the need for the site.
 
City authorities say they are cooperating although a definitive solution has so far eluded them.
 
– ‘Dallas’ in the debris –
 
Many inhabitants of Pata-Rat are fearful of losing their meagre livelihood if the site closes.
 
Claudia and her husband have lived for around 40 years in a part of the site that residents call "Dallas".
 
With their two children they scrape a living by reselling cardboard, plastic bottles and metal cans.
 
"We live how we can, just surviving from day to day. But what are we going to do in future?" says the 68-year-old, expressing her fears over a possible closure.
 
"We were lucky but now it’s over."
 
Brussels has pushed Romania to accelerate its efforts to clean up its rubbish disposal systems, with the European Court of Justice last year issuing a judgement against Romania for failing to close 68 landfill sites which pose risks for the environment and for public health.
 
Recently Cluj city authorities buried the oldest part of the tip under a layer of earth and restricted access to the newer parts of the landfill site.
 
For environmentalists, the site closure cannot come quickly enough.
 
Pata-Rat represents "a ticking environmental time bomb, the explosion is just a matter of time," according to Sandor Korosfoy from the "Floarea de colt" environmental pressure group.
 
He says there is "poisonous rubbish seeping into the ground" and that some of the waste catches fire "several times a year", spreading toxic ash over fields where cattle graze.
 
– Salvation from Brussels? –
 
While some Pata-Rat residents are angry at Brussels for the proposed closure, Zsiga thinks that the EU could yet be the salvation of the camp.
 
"Europe could do many things. Most of all it could make available funds to build social housing or for an integrated rubbish disposal centre," she says, adding that such a facility has been promised by city authorities for several years.
 
"Europe is correct and honest… but the problem comes from above, from the government," says Zsiga, whose activism targets what she calls the "corruption" of Romania’s political class.
 
Mateias, a 51-year-old carpenter, also thinks that the "EU does a good job, it sets rules for us but the rules aren’t followed."
 
He works as a day labourer and also scours the rubbish around "Dallas" to find cardboard and clothes that he can burn when he’s running short on firewood.
 
As for the younger residents of Pata-Rat, 11-year-old Bebe says he spends his afternoons playing football with his friends in the slum.
 
For now, the school bus that takes him to school in Cluj is one of the few things that links the residents of the shanty town with the rest of the city.
 
With the future uncertain, some residents are trying to plot life after Pata-Rat.
 
Ion, who lives with his two adolescent sons around a hundred metres from one of the rubbish heaps, says he hopes he might be able to find work as a street cleaner with the municipal authorities.
 
"Otherwise I don’t know what we’ll do to survive," he says.

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Sri Lanka president slams power regulator chief after conflicting with minister

ECONOMYNET – The powers to change the electricity tariff in Sri Lanka is vested with the Minister of Power and not the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL), President Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Parliament.

The minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekara has requested an upward price revision to be implemented in two phases both in January and July next year, saying the recent tariff hike was not enough for the state-run utility provider Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to continue uninterrupted power supply.

However, Jaynaka Ratnayake, the Chairman of the PUCSL had said  the recent tariff hike is enough for the CEB to cover the cost of production and it will not allow another price hike. However, he has said a twice a year price revision is necessary though it should be in April and October instead of January and July.

President Wickremesinghe said the PUCSL chief was opposing the tariff hike due to his personal reasons.

“The power is vested with the Minister and me. I am the one who made the PUCSL act and I know what is in it,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament on Thursday. quoting a letter from the Attorney General which mentioned provisions in the island nation’s Electricity Act.

Accordingly the Act, the PUCSL would be statutorily obliged to give effect to such policy. It is observed that neither the Act nor the PUCSL Act contains any provisions that empowers the PUCSL to change or act invariant of such policy guidelines.

“The Chairman of the PUCSL is misguiding the general public. I have to meet him and see,” Wickremesinghe said.

WIckremesinghe said the Chairman does not want the tariff hike because he owns one of the highest electricity consuming companies.

“He is the Chairman of the Trillium corporation. It is the firm that takes up the most energy”, he said.

The Trillium group is managed by Janaka Ratnayake and he also holds positions as the chairman and CEO of Trillium Property Management & Services Ltd., City Housing and Real Estate PLC, Trillium Residencies Ltd., Computer Care (Pvt) Ltd., and Rent a Comp Services (Pvt) Ltd., and JR Management Consultants (Pvt) Ltd.

“It means when the electricity bill increases, his expenses increase as well”

He said the CEB still has a loss of 300 billion rupees since 2013 and it needs to be covered.

The CEB issue can be solved only in three ways, either printing more money, increasing value added tax or increasing the tariffm, he said. (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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Sri Lanka President bemoans over inconsistent LNG deals

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe bemoaned over successive governments’ liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal that has brought in all the world powers into the discussion.

Wickremesinghe’s center-right United National Party (UNP) had discussions with India and Japan between 2002-2004 for an LNG project.

“Following dialogues with India and Japan, the UNP government could come to agreements to get two LNG power plants. After we were defeated the successor government, without cancelling those agreements granted it to New Fortress company in USA,” Wickremesinghe told the parliament.

“Thereafter, as they did not like New Fortress, they gave it back to Pakistan and China. So within the same premises, there were China, Pakistan, India, USA, Japan and only Russia was not there.”

“It was wonderful that a world war did not ignited there as there were five main powers in the world.”

“Now there is no LNG or anything here and now they ask me to solve this issue.”

Wickremesighe’s outburst comes as his government is forced to raise tariffs on power prices after successive governments failed to implement cheap and renewable power generation projects.

He said a total loss for the state-run Ceylon Electricity Board since 2013 was 300 billion rupees and a possible drought next year could increase the 2023 electricity cost to 420 billion rupees.

“If it rained, we need Rs. 352 billion while Rs. 295 is required if rained so much to have floods. How are we going to find this money? We would have to print money, but Rupee would depreciate. We would have to increase VAT but it would increase the price of all commodities or to charge it direct.” (Colombo/Dec08/2022)

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Air quality drop forces Sri Lanka to close schools; public warned

ECONOMYNEXT – A rapid drop in air quality in Sri Lanka has forced the Colombo government to close all schools across the country after a deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal, officials said.

The Education Ministry, issuing a special notice on Thursday said, it has decided to close all government schools for Friday, after discussing with the officials in Meteorology Department and Disaster Management Center.

An official said the drop was due to the deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal carrying the air from India.

Due to the depression over South east Bay of Bengal (370 km east of Trincomalee) has concentrated into a cyclonic storm “Mandous” by Wednesday night.

“Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that is the prime reason for the increase in the pollution load as we receive more wind from India,” H.D.S.Premasiri, Senior Scientist, Coordinator-Air Quality, noise and vibrations at National Building Research Organization (NBRO) told EconomyNext on Thursday.

Officials said there is a likelihood of the cyclone moving west-northwestwards and further intensify into a severe cyclonic storm tonight and cross North Tamil-Nadu, Puducherry and South Andhra Pradesh coast around midnight of 09 th December and the maximum wind speeds will be 70-90 km per hour and can increase up to 90 in sea areas.

“Hopefully, today we can expect normalization in the environment and the effects of the fog will disappear”.

According to the NBRO’s real time Air Quality Index Indicator, the quality of air in northwestern coastal district of Puttalam has dropped drastically and indicated a particular matter (PM) 132, while Kegalle (85) and Mannar (84) were the districts which had next worst air quality.

According to NBRO, Battaramulla, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kegalle, Mannar and Puttalam indicate a poor quality of air due to higher PM.

“The fog will lead to lung and breathing issues,” Premasiri said.

“So the public is warned to wear a mask when they travel outside. The pollution highly prevails in city areas and has a less impact on the other parts of the areas.” (Colombo/ Dec08/2022)

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