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Diploma grads in waste management enhance local service efficiency

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Johann Hesse, Head of Corp – EU SL, Prof Ranjana Piyadasa, Dean – Fac of Tech – UoC, Malin Herwig OIC, UNDP-SL, Sr Prof Karunaratne, VC – UoC

Recognising the important role government systems play in contributing to building environment-friendly sustainable cities, is an integral part of supporting efficient and effective local governance while contributing towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this vein, a one-year ‘Diploma Programme in Technology of Waste Management’ by the University of Colombo was introduced in 2022. The graduation ceremony of the first batch of Diplomates was held on Monday, with 41 graduates being awarded the Diploma, with the participation of multi-stakeholders including District and Provincial Level Local Government Authorities, Academics, and development partner organizations.

The ‘Diploma in Technology of Waste Management’, is a UGC-approved diploma programme. It was initiated through the European Union (EU) funded Capacity Development for Local Governments (CDLG) project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, in partnership with the University of Colombo, Uva Provincial Council and the Western Province Waste Management Authority.

Commenting on the programme, A.J.M. Muzammil, Governor of Uva Province stated, “The capacity-building initiative, focused on enhancing waste management practices within the local authorities of the Uva Province was led by the CDLG project, and has played a pivotal role in initiating a range of waste management initiatives. These endeavours have not only fostered a proactive response to the challenges posed by rapid urbanization and tourism development in the province, but they are also crucial to our commitment to environmental preservation, specifically in safeguarding our invaluable water sources for long-term sustainability.”

Speaking on UNDP’s role, Malin Herwig, Officer-In-Charge, UNDP in Sri Lanka said:  “The graduation ceremony today not only celebrates the academic excellence of the 41 Diplomates but also recognizes the power of collaboration and innovation in addressing some of the most pressing challenges that exist in our society. This programme is a testament to the remarkable partnership between the EU, UNDP, the Uva Provincial Council, the University of Colombo, and the Western Province Waste Management Authority. Such collaborative efforts are not only essential for environmental protection but also to advance the broader agenda of sustainable development.”

The Diploma is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka and is designed to build the capacity of local Government officials to enhance their technical knowledge in solid waste management to support innovative action in controlling waste, thereby supporting environmental sustainability, sustainable revenue generation and greener cities in future.

Speaking to their role in supporting better service delivery that promotes sustainable development, Johann Hesse, Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union in Sri Lanka and the Maldives said: “The EU is happy to support the development in war affected and lagging behind provinces, improve coordination in local service delivery, and promote economic opportunities, inclusiveness, and social cohesion in Sri Lanka. We are therefore pleased to see that our Strengthening Transformation, Reconciliation and Inclusive Democratic Engagement (STRIDE) Programme, implemented by UNDP is delivering important results. We see some of the results delivered by this program today: enhanced technical knowledge and support innovative action in controlling waste. We believe these results are important to ensure that economic recovery in the country protects the environment and natural resources.”

Reflecting on the initiative, Bhagya Kodithuwakku, Director, Department of Rural Development of Uva Province said: “I was deeply inspired by the innovative concept of the ‘Kasala Pola’ (Garbage Market) introduced by the students of the Diploma in Technology of Waste Management. This initiative not only provides people with an opportunity to earn income from various types of waste but also prevents the indiscriminate dumping of garbage in our environment. Currently, I am collaborating with rural development societies under my department to replicate this successful initiative in our villages.”

“I received my first appointment as the Technical Officer for Rideemaliyadda Pradesiya Saba, with oversight responsibilities for the Mahiyangana Pradesiya Saba. Upon receiving this appointment, I was tasked with leading waste management operations. Given my background in civil engineering, I initially had no knowledge of waste management. Obtaining this Diploma has been a significant privilege for me, as it has allowed me to learn the fundamentals of waste management from scratch,” noted  Dimuthu Nirantha, Technical Officer and a graduate of the Diploma Programme.

The programme has contributed to developing a nationally accepted curriculum and training module on waste management for the first time, which has contributed to local authorities having reported an increase in the adoption of scientific waste management practices and improving service delivery.

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