Engagement with Colombo Municipal Council
Project Status: On-going
The quantity of waste generated has been increasing at an annual rate of 5% since 2017. In addition, there has been limited policy emphasis placed on waste segregation and on finding the best solution to manage waste in Sri Lanka. While municipal councils are responsible for disposing of street and house refuse, open garbage dumping has become one of the most common methods of waste disposal, leading to a series of public dumping sites, which, in turn, has resulted in the degradation of wetlands, coastal areas, rivers and other water sources that have become heavily polluted. In 2017, unregulated dumping at the Meethotamulla site finally resulted in the collapse of the ‘garbage mountain’ which affected hundreds of households, displaced communities and resulted in the death of 30 people (Environment Foundation Limited).
At the national level, only 20% of households rely on local authorities for solid waste disposal, while nearly half of occupants burn their own solid waste. However, among all districts, Colombo accounts for the highest proportion of households relying on local authorities for solid waste 68% (Census of Population and Housing).
Citra met with the Chief of Staff of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) on several occasions during the course of 2018 (including one meeting with the Mayor of Colombo), based on an initial request to identify avenues through which Citra could partner with CMC to improve public service delivery processes. These initial meetings led to the identification of various potential areas of work, including the need to facilitate a citizens’ engagement platform to more effectively connect municipal council officials with members of the community and issues on the ground. The Chief of Staff suggested using the Solid Waste Management (SWM) division as a pilot area for the platform, which could then eventually be extended to other areas.
Accordingly, following an initial meeting with the Director, Deputy Director and two engineers from the CMC’s SWM division, the Citra team facilitated a half-day interactive design and systems thinking workshop with 9 representatives from the SWM division in December 2018.
The purpose of the workshop was to collect insights from CMC officials on how current processes work at CMC, what issues they face, what issues they feel citizens face, and their ideas on how to overcome such issues. Accordingly, the Citra team used a number of design and systems-thinking tools to facilitate such conversations, including: rich pictures to illustrate the SWM ecosystem, along with its issues and potential areas to be improved; issue maps, where officials flagged 31 issues around SWM under various categories, and voted on the most pressing; stakeholder mappings around the top two prioritised issues; and a brief ideation session, to generate solutions around the second issue (namely, the need for an awareness/communication mechanism on SWM). In addition, a short survey was carried out among the participants, specifically on the citizens’ engagement platform.
Citra is in the process of drafting a preliminary report compiling the insights generated from the initial session with the CMC SWM officials. Citra will also design a survey for CMC to administer to a random sample of its constituents, to collect perspectives on SWM from a community angle. The survey conducted during the initial workshop will also be circulated more widely by CMC to other officials, to collect further insights for the design of the platform. The report and both surveys would then inform what features the citizen engagement platform would need to incorporate, to kick-off the design stage.