By Ifham Nizam
Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has questioned some Central Environmental Authority (CEA) officials for permitting more than 20 individuals to collect waste burnt out oil from ships without having facilities to purify it.
However, it was claimed that most of those individuals were backed by some senior politicians and the Authority didn’t have any say.
The Minister has decided to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the toxic waste oil racket through the Presidential Special Investigation Division.
Amaraweera said the racket had been going on for a long time. “This racket is causing a huge amount of foreign exchange loss to the country and causing huge environmental damage,” he added.
Accordingly, steps would be taken by the Presidential Investigation Division to stop the racket and investigate the huge amount of money that has changed hands, the Minister said.
“After the President returns from his visit to New York, I will hold discussions with him and submit a factual report on the amount of money lost to the country in dollars through this racket,” Minister Amaraweera said.
The CEA has so far issued 27 permits for the disposal of waste fuel oil. However, only four companies have the facility to refine it. About 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of burnt out waste oil are shipped into the country annually. But the country has capacity to refine only 4,800 tonnes a year by licensed companies. It is not clear what happens to the remaining 15,200 tons of waste oil.
The Minister said that issuing licences to companies and individuals who did not have fuel refining facilities was wrong.