Environmentalists note that a grave environmental disaster has occurred due to the dumping of Calcium Nitrate (Ca No3)2 into the Deduru Oya allegedly by Jiffy Products Sri Lanka (Pvt) Ltd which exports coir products. Even though there are more than eight pending cases related to the factory over the environmental issues, action is yet to be taken by the relevant authorities to save the natural water of the country from contaminations.
Meanwhile, the consumption of contaminated water from Deduru Oya had caused many health issues to the consumers such as kidney and lung diseases. The consumption of contaminated groundwater had caused kidney diseases while thecoir dust-polluted air caused lung diseases.
It has been many years since the issue began but no authorities have taken action against the company or the issue to stop the contamination of water as a result of the company’s influence with the government bodies of the country.
The company in question is being accused of not treating the waste water as it costs on electricity and water hence they dispose the waste water into Deduru Oya at night or on rainy days.
The danger in this is Deduru Oya is polluted with Calcium Nitrate and it spreads to the valley. People not only use the water for consumption and domestic use but also for cultivation purposes. This puts people at more risk. Hence, the plants that are irrigated with Deduru Oya water have the possibility to be poisoned with Calcium Nitrate.
The company has been operating violating all environmental laws and was allowed to continue the operation under the intervention of the former government member as he was given a part of its profit for allowing the factory to function, claimed the Environmentalists in the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) consumer water standards, one litter of water could contain less than 50 mg of Nitrate whereas it is limited to 10mg in the US and Chinese consumer water standards.
However, according to the sample test conducted by Central Environment Authority (CEA) from the water collected from Deduru Oya, one litter of this water is said to contain 2109.52 mg of Nitrate which is a very high level for human consumption.
“It has been there for more than 6 years now and we could not take any legal action with immediate effect against the Jiffy Company as the former government gave the maximum support to continue the operation of the factory” said the Director of Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) Sajeewa Chamikara.
Some of the media organisations in the country were even bribed or threatened to stop publishing the news and information about the environmental pollution of the factory therefore, many media organisations failed to carry the information during the previous regime claims the Environmentalists.
We have now highlighted the issue again recently to seek justice not only for the people who continue to consume the contaminated ground water but also for the environmental pollution. It not only harms the human beings but also fish and other water creatures in the river. However, no responses were received to date from the relevant authorities with regards to this issue.
He went onto say that it is not only the issue with the contamination of ground and surface water but also the soil contamination which eventually will lead to the poisonous cultivation.
He also claims that the influence of the North Western Provincial Environmental Authority can be one of the reasons why the factory is allowed to function continuously while it is clear that the factory contaminate the groundwater of the area with Nitrate at a risky level.
Jiffy Products Sri Lanka
The Company which exports fibre uses Calcium Nitrate(Ca (No3)2), a chemical that has been prohibited by the Coconut Development Board, to clean the fibre. Meanwhile, coir dust is used as manure for the plants in the factory.
They discharge the untreated waste water from the treatment plant of the factory into the river following the cleaning process of the fibre with Calcium Nitrate. This company allegedly releases 600,000 Litres of contaminated water into groundwater per day even though it is permitted only 200,000 Litres to be released in the accepted refinery system, but the company had not considered the regulations.
They are also accused of spraying a highly dangerous chemical called Methyl that could harm the Ozone layer, into containers to avoid bacteria attacks on coir dust. The factory is also said to function for 24 hours a day while ignoring the basic rights of the workers and their health.
The Environmentalists claim that the factory not only harms the environment but also the workers of it.
However, they first went to India, but were turned back. They then moved to Sri Lanka, successively established their business in 2008 as a BOI company named Jiffy Products Sri Lanka, and located in the coconut triangle. This multi-national company has branches in over 42 countries.
The Chairman of the NWSDB K.A. Ansar says that the water contamination issues are being addressed by the CEA with immediate effect adding that the authority is being vigilant about such contaminations.
“There were some water contaminations reported in the Negombo areas where the brick manufactures dump their waste into Ma-Oya and measures were taken immediately to arrest the contamination”, he said.
It is mostly the factories which are located along the River Banks dispose their dumps into the river directly or indirectly hence we are planning to build more pipe lines for the Negombo area in order to provide access to the pipe-borne water, while measures were in place to monitor and inspect the factories closely.
Jiffy Group Denies Allegations
President and the CEO of the Jiffy Group Norway, Dagfinn Andersen, while speaking to The Sunday Leader said, “the company is happy that finally we got a chance to tell our side of the story too”, adding that Jiffy denies all the allegations made against the company since in the mission statement of Jiffy, innovation, quality and care for the environment is given the high value.
He went on to say that the Calcium nitrate is not some mysterious substance, but a common fertilizer. The normal, everyday agricultural use of calcium nitrate as a fertilizer is by far much larger than the consumption of Jiffy. Calcium nitrate is one of the most widely used fertilizers in greenhouse operations. The discovery and the development of nitrate fertilizers have helped to feed millions of people. Furthermore, calcium nitrate is also used to treat waste water in many countries in Europe.
He also claimed that in addition to this, Jiffy has on their own initiative asked the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and Certification Company to independently take samples from the river, the riverbed and the soil at several locations. All the water samples were well within the WHO standard for drinking water – in fact they were also within the much stricter EPA standard for drinking water.
When The Sunday leader questioned about their disposal of waste water into the river on rainy days, responding to the question Anderson said, that although Jiffy does not discharge anything to the river, there was a theoretical possibility that rainwater could carry some effluent water outside their facility. Therefore a second testing program was repeated during days of heavy rainfall and no contamination was found.
He further noted that when the process that involves calcium nitrate is complete, Jiffy sends the effluent to an effluent treatment plant where liquid is diluted to the acceptable standards as defined by law.
He claimed that Jiffy is certified according to the international environmental standard ISO14000. The facility in Sri Lanka has been audited by Veritas (as all their other locations) and been found in compliance with this standard.
He also told The Sunday Leader that most companies use flash driers (burning diesel) to dry the coir used for manufacturing whereas Jiffy prefers to use the sun. “We spread the material on large drying yards and let the sun do this job in the most environment friendly way. It is during this sun drying, and if it is a windy day, that some dust may be carried by the wind. This is why we have the tall fences around the drying yards – trying to minimize the dust that leaves the yard,” he said.
He claimed that, “this dust is not a health hazard and Jiffy works with the same coir material in factories in Norway, Holland, Estonia and the USA where we have never seen any health problems related to the coir dust, Therefore, the critics should be encouraged to search for scientific, medical evidence”.
the sunday leader