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Waste management and reuse of landfill



‘Locked down’ due to Covid-19 and going through some of my old collections, I came across an interesting publication as titled above. As this subject is relevant today, concerning climate change and renewable sources of energy, I quote the 11 suggestions made in the introduction, for the information of the authorities interested.

1. Total landfill management concept – With available space for landfills declining daily and concerns over population and dwindling natural resources; a Total Landfill Management Concept covering handling, recycling, composting, extraction and use of gases and maintenance and re-use of sanitary landfills is becoming vital.

2. Landfill gas – Anaerobic decomposition of organic solid waste in the landfill environment produces landfill gas [LFG]. LFG mainly consists of methane and carbon dioxide, both of which are odorless, Trace concentrations of other volatiles, often maladdress or toxic gases, are also found in LFG. LFG can migrate through soil into structures located on or near landfills. Since methane presents a fire or explosive threat, LFG must be controlled to protect property, and public health and safety. Also, many jurisdictions require landfill owners/operators to reduce reactive organic gas emissions to improve regional air quality, Thus, engineered solutions are needed to efficiently and safely monitor, collect, and process landfill gas.

3. Solid waste management planning – As existing landfills near capacity, as less land becomes available for the siting of new municipal solid waste [MSW] landfills, and regulatory agencies adopt stricter rules on waste disposal, or jurisdictions are facing the need to have a solid waste management plan. Unlike plans in the past, these plans are focusing on more than just collection and disposal of MSW, such as recycling, resources recovery, waste-to-energy and incineration, and examine other methods for reducing waste at the beginning of the cycle – i.e. less packaging, requiring biodegradable wrappings [bottle bills etc.

4. Waste composition studies – Waste composition studies are performed for a number of reasons, one of which is the most common – as a start towards recycling programs. Waste composition studies can assist solid waste management departments

5. Recycling – With available space in landfills declining daily, and concerns over population and dwindling natural resources growing, many communities are looking for recycling as one way to ease the strain created by increasing solid waste. Assisting communities in determining the most economically feasible and efficient method of handling recyclable materials. Several steps are involved in determining what recyclables exist in the waste stream. Evaluating the market to discover what are the current and projected needs for recyclables, comprehensive planning so implementation of a recycling plan goes smoothly and fits in with the overall goals of the community, and siting design of the recycling facility.

6. Material Recovery Facilities [MRFs] – Material recovery facilities, also sometimes called separation facilities, can be multi-million dollar installations with sophisticated, automated sorting, baling, crushing , wash-down machines or an empty building renovated with a conveyor and magnetic separator. The size and types of equipment of a MRF is determined by the usage – is the facility only used by the residents of a town, by a large city or country, or is it regional?. Much of what a MRF accepts is dictated by supply and demand and recycler’s requirements. One of the keys for designing a MRF is to design the flexibility as the demand for different types of recyclable grows.

7. Patented Technology for Conversion of Non-Organic Waste [Plastics etc] into Composite Structural Material – This process uses polypropylene, plastic and similar waste materials combined with chain fibers from biomass [wood, straw etc] to produce lightweight composites, which can be used for earth filling, building construction etc. The chemical and mechanical action of the process leads to steam explosion of the biomass material, through exposing more surface area to the melting polymers which promotes entanglement and adhesion. This allows for use of 65% biomass, 25% polypropylene,1 to 2% Epolene and 2 to 3% fly ash. Together, these longer chain fibers create an improved matrix with more flexibility at lower costs due to the wide variety of biomass which may be used. By using more fiber and less polymers, a lighter weight composite results and particle size is larger due to the chain fibers. Where waterproofing and external use are the prime concerns or where Maximum strength is desired, more plastic and finer particles can be incorporated. Color can be added to assimilate natural woods such as redwood or yellow pine.

8. Transfer Stations – The siting, design and permitting of a transfer station, or a network of transfer stations in densely populated areas, can be difficult. Emotionally-charged issue for a community. Environmental , financial, legal, noise, traffic, aesthetics, public resistance, and health and safety concerns are some of the issues that must be dealt with when siting and designing a transfer station. Other considerations include hauling distances, collection vehicle arrival times and discharges rates, the needed tipping floor and loading area, etc. As the transfer station is one component in a solid waste management program, other vehicles, such as combining a waste transfer station with a recycling/or resource recovery facility must be taken into account.

9. Composting- Composting is becoming an important part of the recycling programme. Communities are finding it a useful tool to both keep yard waste out of the land fill, and to promote natural, and economic fertilisation of vegetable and flower gardens in urban and suburban areas. A plant of the solid waste management plan being conducted, strategy. The USEPA has conducted studies to determine if different types of composts [yard wastes, sewage, sludge, water waste sludge, food waste] can be processed for land cultivation and land reclamation purposes

10. Landfill Engineering – Landfill engineering assignments typically involve many elements, including – Siting of new landfills, – Geological and hydrogeological investigations. Environmental studies [ecology. Wetland, etc], Concept designs – Design [including leachate and landfill gas migration control and cap and cover plans]; – Operation plan – Preparation of permitting application packages and negotiations with regulatory officials. Environmental impact assessments and preparation of environmental impact reports. Closure and post-closure plans and Remedial action investigations and design.

11. Landfill Gas -Landfill gas [LFG] migration investigations, control and recovery design and continuing monitoring is absolutely necessary.




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KNDU: MBBS for the rich, crumbs for the poor




A regular day at work. A medical student, Niluka (not her real name), comes to my office to discuss the presentation she is due to make at a research symposium. In the middle of our meeting she is in tears. Her mother, a single mother, who works as a security guard in remote Polonnaruwa, cannot afford her boarding fees as she has to cover her sister’s A/L tuition classes, as well as her brother’s medicines for a recent health issue. Niluka is unable to focus on her presentation because she is worried about her financial situation. She has a year and half to go.

This is the picture of Free Education that many do not see, of students struggling to make ends meet. Such stories are commonplace at our non-fee levying state universities; as Sumathy Sivamohan wrote recently, “free education does not serve everybody equally, but over the years and across decades, it has come to represent the hope of a vast majority for a better place in society.” However, this aspect of Free Education is obscured by images of protesting students “wasting tax-payers’ money,” constructed by the media in the service of the state. While Colombo-based elites (and others) may be duped into seeing the Kotelawala National Defence University (KNDU) Bill and military repression as solutions to the problems in higher education, this article explores what the Bill really means, especially its implications for medical education.

No vision, no imagination

Free Education, despite its marginalisations and exclusions, is etched in our nation’s consciousness, so much so that governments have been reluctant to overtly dismantle the public education system. Instead, they have stealthily underfunded the system, while incentivising expansion of private education. With inadequate public investment, the state universities under the UGC are floundering to service demand, while the fee-levying Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) and non-state fee-levying higher educational institutions, such as SLIIT, receive state subsidies to finance infrastructure as well as student loans.

Fee-levying universities are simply not affordable for the vast majority in this country. To flourish, they require public-financing, both for their establishment and for student loans, to make them accessible to the masses. While escalating investment in KDU and private fee-levying universities through public funds, the government has adopted a zero-investment policy for state universities under the UGC and increased admissions by a third, this year. The fallout of increasing admissions without budgetary allocations is most felt by universities in peripheral districts, already running on meagre resources.

A government’s vision for education is inextricably linked with its economic policy. While lacking a credible vision for education, successive governments have been equally unimaginative in attempts to improve the economy. Sri Lanka relies on imports for day-to-day essentials, such as lentils, pulses, and milk, with little investment in agriculture or agro-industries for value addition. Meanwhile, billions of rupees are lost in tax incentives to attract (elusive) foreign direct investment, including in education. The Board of Investment expanded its purview to include the social sector in the 1990s, essentially opening education to the global market. The latter has changed the landscape of education in the country with international schools, private colleges and other higher education institutions proliferating in the decades since, and creating parallel systems of education for students from rich and poor families.

Enter KNDU

Faced by mounting debt, the government is desperately looking for avenues to build up its foreign reserves. In 2019, the incumbent government proposed a “free education investment zone” to attract investment from “top international universities,” with accompanying tax exemptions, yet another scheme to subsidise the private sector through public funding. With COVID-19, the plans for the investment zone fell by the wayside. However, just a few years after the SAITM debacle, the government is once again looking to expand private medical education, this time through the KDU.

In 2019, the incumbent President’s manifesto, which is the government’s policy framework, stated that “steps will be taken to expand the Kotelawala Defence University” (p.22). Why KDU? Because the majority of its students are enrolled on a fee-levying basis through mechanisms outside the UGC’s Z score-based system. Although seemingly catering to the military, a closer look at the statistics presented on the website of KDU’s Faculty of Medicine, indicate that the number of medical students recruited doubled, and then tripled, once the faculty began to enroll “non-military foreign students.” As recruitment was limited to foreign students, albeit loosely defined, KDU did not encounter too much controversy.

The KNDU Bill proposes to build a parallel militarised university system, and alternatively, a change to the Universities Act of 1978 aims to bring KDU under the purview of the UGC, as a university for a “specific purpose.” Clearly, the appeal of KDU and other “specific purpose” universities is not their potential to strengthen Free Education. That these reforms will increase the military’s involvement in higher education has been the focus of debate in recent weeks, but less attention has been paid to their implications for education opportunities for students like Niluka, and their potential impact on medical education.

‘MBBS Kada’

Both the proposed KNDU Bill and the amendment to the Universities Act can be viewed as attempts to create the conditions for the expansion of fee-levying MBBS degree programmes, which have been resisted since the days of NCMC. The KNDU Bill will give legal authority for KNDU to recognise and affiliate other institutions to KNDU, bypassing the UGC as well as the Sri Lanka Medical Council’s minimum standards. The Bill will ultimately result in the proliferation of poorly regulated ‘MBBS kada,’ and a decline in the overall standards of medical education.

Even the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS), a body not averse to private education, has made the following statement regarding the KNDU Bill: “On principle, the AMS is not against quality fee levying medical education…if it is regulated and monitored by the UGC and the Sri Lanka Medical Council. However, lack of proper process and transparency will prevent the establishment of such fee levying institutions in Sri Lanka.”

Could expanding medical education in this manner present opportunities to address problems in the health sector, such as the regional maldistribution of physicians?

First, if KNDU and its affiliates aim to attract international medical students, it is unlikely that these graduates would serve in Sri Lanka.

Second, as the Bill will enable KNDU to admit local students, if we assume the current fee structure of upwards of Rs. 1 million per year for the MBBS programme, the KNDU medical students would represent the elite who are more likely to immigrate to greener pastures.

Third, if the government intends to broad-base MBBS degree programmes, they would need to offer hefty student loans to our students. Evidence from other countries suggests that medical graduates with student loans are more likely to opt for higher paying specialties rather than work in primary care, and less likely to serve in rural areas.

It is therefore unlikely that the KNDU Bill would contribute towards advancing the health sector, except perhaps through its military cadets, who would most likely work for the Ministry of Defence and not the Ministry of Health.

Student loans may have other unintended consequences. Despite private practice being widespread, many doctors, especially women non-specialist doctors, do not engage in private practice. In fact, general doctors from peripheral districts often do return to their districts, although they may remain in urban centres owing to the poor education facilities available to children in remote rural areas. These doctors make up the physician workforce in base hospitals and above, as well as in the preventive sector, in all parts of the country. Having to repay a student loan may drive such doctors to remain in districts, where private practice is more available and lucrative, intensifying the regional maldistribution of physicians.

Crumbs for the poor

What of students like Niluka in the non-fee levying state university system? A quick perusal of the website of KDU’s Faculty of Medicine indicates that brain drain may have already commenced. Imagine the fate of our non-fee levying state medical faculties with the mushrooming of ‘MBBS kada’ across the country? They will inevitably offer higher salaries, as does KDU, attracting without any outlay teachers whose training was subsidised by state universities. Furthermore, as reported in the media, KDU has already seen massive state investment, much of it in its teaching hospital, far beyond investments in any single university or faculty of medicine under the UGC. The fate of medical education at non-fee levying state universities does not need to be spelled out here. With their weakening, the demographics of students who enter medicine are sure to change, with fewer and fewer opportunities for students like Niluka, not to mention the broader implications for medical education and the healthcare system.

Let’s stand together to protect Free Education and Free Medical Education!


(The writer is attached to the Department of Community and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna).

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The Prophet discouraged employing domestic servants



After reading in the newspapers that according to Police Media Spokesperson SDIG Ajith Rohana, 11 women have previously served as domestic servants at ex- Minister Rishad Bathiudeen’s residence, I thought of sharing the following authentic hadith (tradition) of our Prophet (pbuh) with regard to employing domestic servants. Given below is the gist of it.

When the Prophet’s beloved daughter Fathima complained about the unpleasant traces that making dough and kneading it had left on her hands and requested for a servant, his response was  “Shall I not direct you to what is more beneficial for you than having a servant?”

Every night when you go to bed recite 33 times the phrase -‘Subhanallah’ (i.e. ‘Allah is Exalted and clear of imperfection’), 33 times – ‘Al-Hamdu lillah’ ( ‘All praise is due to Allah) and 34 times – ‘Allahu Akbar’ (Allah is the Greatest). —- Source – Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and Bayhaqi

According to Islamic scholars, a servant is a worldly benefit, but to praise and glorify God in the manner described above will bring the person a greater and everlasting benefit in the Hereafter, and moreover, that by constant recitation one will experience a physical power that will enable him or her to fulfill the household chores more efficiently than a domestic aide.

Now that we have so many “electrical aides” – electric kitchen appliances: blenders/grinders/mixers, fryers, toasters, dish-washers, washing machines, microwave ovens and the list is endless, and with the barrage of allegations (which is now sub judice ) against the ex-Minister, wife and his in laws, isn’t it better that we follow the above prophetic tradition of not employing domestic aides?



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Benefits of rhythmic gymnastics for girls



To master this sport, a gymnast needs to master the skills and the artistry necessary to win at competitions and attain recognition, even fame.  But why do parents in some countries enthusiastically support this activity, but others, for example Sri Lanka, do not? The exponents of this art are mostly girls, who, when dressed up in costume and make up, can look really fabulous, having photogenic artistry, posture and style. Such photos make wonderful family heirlooms, recalling memories of a youth well spent!

To be successful at competitions, great agility and flexibility of the limbs is required. Therefore, it helps greatly if exercises are started from an early age, perhaps when a girl is four or five. However, she should be warned in advance that stretching leg muscles is painful, because this stretching is essential to move fully and easily and perform well. Training coaches will do this gently, in stages until complete.

Older gymnasts need to master a programme of moves, including pirouettes, rolls and backward flip and so on, usually working with hoops, ribbons, hand clubs and balls, all according to age and progress. If she takes part in circus gymnastics, this also can be a lot of fun.

What are the benefits arising from all this effort in training? The first and most obvious benefit is that the person gains a high level of fitness, which she may keep for years and it will help her keep a youthful shape into middle age. But the one unspoken benefit, and perhaps the greatest of all, is that she will develop an ability to concentrate. This is absolutely needed to enable her to perform the various routines to a high standard.  Then, with improved concentration, she has a very valuable asset which renders her a capable, competent human being, which is of great benefit to the society she lives in.                                                


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