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Holcim cement plant in Puttalam, Sri Lanka

The biggest plant in a cement-hungry Sri Lanka threatens the health of local population, while workers complain for low wages. The Swiss company downplays their claims and continue co-incineration of hazardous and non-hazardous waste to fuel its kilns


The demand of cement in Sri Lanka is growing fast due to the rapid development in the services, tourism, and construction sectors. The Puttalam cement factory, owned by the Swiss company Holcim Group, is the biggest one in Sri Lanka and is located in the Palaviya G.S. division, just 8 km from Puttalam town. The local population claims that cement dust poses a health hazard to them and that is the reason why, especially during the 2001-2005 period, they rose up with several protests [1]. The site consists of a dry process cement plant with two kilns and it is approved to co-process alternative fuels and raw materials (AFR), including hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Holcim cement plant in Puttalam, Sri Lanka
Country:Sri Lanka
State or province:Puttalam
Location of conflict:Puttalam
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Puttalam cement factory, which is the bigger of the two functioning factories, produces 80% of Sri Lanka’s production of 542,000 MT.

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project152.7 million USD
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:missing data
Start of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Holcim (Lanka) Ltd from Switzerland
Geocycle Sri Lanka from Sri Lanka
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Sri Lanka
The Inter Company Employees Union (ICEU)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Industrial workers
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impactsrespiratory diseases, brain damage, lung cancer, heart diseases, skin irritations, fatigue, headache, and nausea [1]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Missing datas
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite the declaration by Holcim to produce environmental friendly cement [10], actually there are no significant changes recorded by local EJOs
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] SANDEE Working Paper No. 35-08 November 2008

South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE).

C. Bogahawatte, J. Herath. Air Quality and Cement Production: Examining the Implications of Point Source Pollution in Sri Lanka.
[click to view]

M. Wijayasundara. Sustainability in manufacturing built materials: cement manufacturing using alternative fuel and raw material in cement kilns. Holcim (Lanka) Ltd, 2013
[click to view]

[2 ]Sri Lanka Mineral & Mining Sector Investment and Business Guide - Strategic and Practical Information. International business publication USA, 2013

[3] Article from Worldbank blog. Published on 27th March 2013
[click to view]

[4] CHWMEG, Inc. web site. Holcim Puttalam Cement Plant. CHWMEG Report Number: H884.0
[click to view]

[5] Article from Centre for Environmental Justice. By Hemantha Withanage. Proposed Norochcholai Coal Power plant. Why they opposed? September 2004
[click to view]

[6] Article published on 'Global Cement Magazine: magazine focused on the cement industry'. (05/06/2014) Striking Holcim workers in Sri Lanka occupy cement plants
[click to view]

[7] Holcim Lanka web site
[click to view]

[8] Newspaper article from 'the Sunday Times' on line (22/6/2014). Monsoon blows foul emissions landward, covering crops, houses with ash.

By Nadia Fazlulhaq (accessed 20/07/2015)
[click to view]

[9] Newspaper article from 'the Island' on line (24/06/2014). Fly ash headache at Norochcholai over? By Ifham Nizam (accessed 20/07/2015)
[click to view]

[10] Online article from 'global cement' (30/4/2015). Holcim Lanka launches Ready Flow Plus cement. (accessed 20/07/2015)
[click to view]

InfodriveIndia group web site.

InfodriveIndia is one of the India’s leading provider of export import. On the following link you can find most of the Cement Importers and Cement Buyers in Srilanka
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Centre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1825
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