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Mtoni Dumpside CDM Project putting livelihoods of farmers and wastepickers at risk (Newsletter #13)

Guest comment by Finnigan Wa Simbeye, Tanzania Daily News

So far, CDM biogas projects have been praised as the most sustainable projects implemented under the CDM. However, a recent eye witness report from a much touted biogas in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam tells a different story.

Carbon Credits from an Abandoned Dumpsite

The “Mtoni Dumpsite”[1] in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania was registered in June 2007 as the first project in Tanzania. According to the project’s design document, the Mtoni project is supposed to reduce about 200.000 tons of CO2 emissions annually through the combustion of methane contained in the biogas extracted from the dump site. Since June 2007, the project has been issued 35.122 carbon credits.

The dumpsite was moved over 40 kilometers away from the location in order to serve as a CDM project. Hundreds of waste pickers heavily protested against the closure of the dumpsite in 1997/8 because they used to make their life by picking garbage to recover recyclable materials at the Mtoni Dumpsite. Ironically the dumpsite is now abandoned with erosion sweeping away the soil exposing some of the landfill waste – contrary to its original plans to generate 2.5 megawatts of electricity from an estimated 1.8 million metric tons of solid waste.

“People pass here freely throughout the day. Some of them are pick-pockets who hide on the river banks after stealing from people,” said Sophia Cholobi, a resident in the area since 1981. She lamented over the closure of the dumpsite. She said she earned a living through scavenging in the dumpsite.

A ‘Daily News’ survey has noted that there was literally no security guard to protect the project area from trespassing vandals. It has also been observed that soil erosion from heavy rains has left plastic garbage projecting to the surface. Residents in the area complained about the foul smell emoted by rotting garbage. Fumes can be seen rising to the sky when it rains. According to experts this indicates that methane is escaping into the air.

The Profiteers

The Dar es Salaam City Council (DCC) and an Italian company Consorzio Stabile Globus invested two million Euro in the project, which is the largest in East Africa.

While it was envisaged that the reduction of more than 200,000 tonnes CO2 should lead to more than US$38,800 per year, the Mtoni project has only managed a fraction of the initiative.

Failure by the Italian firm Consorzio Stabile Globus and the Dar es Salaam City Council to implement the Mtoni Dumpsite biogas project on schedule has also disappointed the Director of Environment in the Vice-President’s Office. The Director of Environment, Mr Richard Muyungi – a former CDM Executive Board member – has stated in January 2011 that delay in implementing the country’s only Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project, has gone beyond acceptable standards. A vividly disappointed Mr Muyungi said “this project is supposed to have started generating 2.5 megawatts of electricity from the dumpsite gas, but so far they are still using Tanesco power and sometimes diesel generators.”.

Until early this year, the project was processing an average of 10 cubic metres of methane daily. The DCC Assistant Dumpsite Manager, Mr Richard Kishere, said that generation of electricity is behind schedule because of insufficient gas on the site.

Yet, the project has so far received more than 35.000 carbon credits. Whether these were actually reduced was verified by the auditor TÜV SÜD who confirms in its auditing report[2] that “the project is partly implemented as described in the registered PDD. Only phase-1 including a gas flare system has been installed. Phase- 2 consisting of biogas fueled electricity generator for supplying to the grid was not implemented due to lack of sufficient biogas from the landfill”. The report also confirms that “due to the lower biogas generation and non-implementation of phase-2 the emission reductions presented in the current monitoring report are significantly lower from the emission reductions as indicated in the registered PDD”.

Finally, the auditing report also states that “Installed equipment essential for generating emission reductions run reliably”.

Mtoni cause harzardous substances toxic to fauna, flora and human beings

This conclusion clearly does not take into account that leachate oozing from the poorly covered dumpsite is threatening the lives of thousands of Dar es Salaam residents, as vegetable growing goes on using polluted Kizinga river water for irrigation.

A study by the Institute of Human Settlements Studies[3] shows that soils used for vegetable production around Mtoni dumpsite and the leachetes flowing to the Mtoni Estuary and towards the Indian Ocean, contaminating the water that is used for watering the vegetables contain a high concentration of heavy metals. Some of these metals are toxic to both fauna and flora, soils close to the edge of the dumpsite contain highly concentrated heavy metals, some of which are toxic to humans. Based on these findings, the study recommends shifting vegetables at 10 m from the edge to at least 200 m away from the edge of the dumpsite to reduce health risks. It also notes that alternative income generating activities for farmers who depend on the soils from this area for vegetable production is needed as the production of vegetables is the sole source of income to the people in the area.

What’s next?

Biogas projects under the CDM that reduce emissions and contribute to sustainable development are welcome. Likewise, they are not welcome if they fail to achieve neither of their objectives. This applies  to the Mtoni Biogas project as much as to the development of biogas projects in general. Before implementing such a project, a whole life-cycle assessment is needed. The Mtoni biogas project shows that simply moving a dumpsite from one place to the other to save emissions by flaring gas does not do the trick. It is now up to the CDM Executive Board to assess whether the Mtoni dumpside biogas project is eligible for generating carbon credits despite the state it is in. CDM Watch and people living close to the project area do not believe that the project developers of the Mtoni project should receive any more credits until the serious problems it has caused have been fixed.

Currently Africa hosts less than two per cent of all registered CDM projects with only 7 projects pipeline in Tanzania,compared to more than 2000 in China.

[1] Project 0908: Landfill gas recovery and electricity generation at “Mtoni Dumpsite”, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania


[3] Heavy metal concentrations in soils and leachetes of Mtoni dumpsite bordering the Indian Ocean inDar es Salaam, Tanzania, June 2010


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