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New landfill to resume operation

- Expert down-plays Repi waste-to-energy plant        - Said it is just a trash incinerator

After nearly a year since a garbage slide at the half-a-century-year old Repi Landfill claimed lives of 72 people and victimized hundreds more, the US Embassy in Ethiopia and the Addis Ababa City Administration are working closely to revitalize another landfill—the Sendafa Sanitary Landfill Plant—that remained closed due to a political uprising in the Oromia Regional State.

Sahadat Hossian (PhD), professor of civil engineering with the University of Texas, where he heads Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability (SWIS) told The Reporter that the city government is working closely with the US embassy to revitalize the Sendafa Landfill Plant.

Located some 30 kilometer to the North East of Addis Ababa in the Oromia Special Zone, the Plant was only operational for three months until it was forced to cease activities two years ago, in relation to protest and political uprising that rocked the Oromia Regional State. The short lived landfill was also a center of dispute as farmers relocated from the area demanded more compensation turning down the 25 million birr officials claimed to have paid as compensation.

According to Hossain, he knew the Sendafa Landfill Plant since 2015, when he was involved in the technical aspects of the project. Literature validates that sanitary landfills are those sites where waste is isolated from the environment until it is safe. It is considered safe when it has completely degraded biologically, chemically and physically.

According to the expert, the Sendafa Sanitary Landfill is technically fit for operation without any harm to the neighborhood. He said that effluent treatment together with liquid and solid waste management systems enable to confine even any releases of odder and leakages.

With the invitation of the US embassy, Hossain came to meet Mayor Takele Uma and the technical team. He went to see both the aborted Sendafa Landfill and the old Repi dumpsite and said that Repi has become obsolete and currently operates beyond its capacity and an accident is unavoidable from happening. “Based on my preliminary examinations of the site, it is possible to answer all the concerns people living nearby raised. They have issues with the smell and leaching. Technically, environmentally and physically we can take care of the concerns. I am not talking about political matters. But from the technical point of view, Sendafa is preferable to be utilized. I am about to write a report about that,” Hossain told The Reporter.

Stretching on 136 hectares of land, Sendafa consumed an investment of one billion birr.

In addition to suggesting the complete closure to Repi, Hossain down-played the Repi waste-to-energy plant which has seized operations just weeks after its inauguration. The plant was believed to take 1,400 tons of waste daily that equates up to 80 percent of rubbish generated from Addis Ababa. Repi was to supply 30 percent of the households with electricity on top of minimizing carbon emissions.

From its primary commissioning, the plant was met with controversies on how much energy was meant to be generated. Initially, a 50 megawatt electric power was the design capacity yet Cambridge Industries – the company behind the project denied and said that only 25 megawatt was the agreed amount to be generated. But for Hossain, the plant is simply an incinerator. He backs his argument by saying the waste generated in Ethiopia entirely is organic which means they have a high volume of moisture. Ridding the wet requires huge energy. Hence, the imbalance between the amount of electric power generated and the energy required to dry all the moisturized waste makes no sense, Hossain argues.

The Reporter has learnt that the Ethiopian Electric Power is in a process of reopen the Repi energy plant and is about to renegotiate with the contractor to decide the right amount of electric power that should be generated.