May 20, 2021

Kigali Landfill “May Explode Anytime” From Dangerous Gases


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LEFT: Inadequate drainage channelling leachate into pits and protecting overflow of leachate to the neighbouring community RIGHT: The contracted company to manage Nduba landfill was supposed to construct drainage to channel leachate into new pits and protect overflow of leachate to the neighbouring community around the landfill. However, the audit noted that the constructed drainage is inadequate and cannot protect overflow of leachate

A landfill on the outskirts of Kigali is a ticking timebomb headed for a dangerous explosion despite billions of Francs poured into developing the site, the Auditor General has found.

Massive volumes of garbage from Kigali’s 380,000 homes dumped there are becoming an environmental disaster-in-making. All agencies involved instead blame each other for the delayed redevelopment which was actually meant to avert the same approaching disaster.

In 2012, government halted the dumping of Kigali’s tons of garbage in Nyanza land fill located in Kicukiro district – which is one of the capital’s fast developing areas. Nduba, in Gasabo district of Kigali, largely rural, became the new site. At the same time, the central government transferred the site into Kigali City management.  

Six years later, a project co-managed by Kigali and the water agency WASAC brought in a contractor who was expected to deploy latest technology in waste management. However, by last year, no much work had been done.

A new contractor was hired, JV Depo Pharmaceutique Karisimbi Ltd) for daily management of solid and liquid waste at Nduba landfill.

Nduba is said to receive on daily basis 500 to 550 tons of solid waste collected across Kigali and around 150 to 200 cubic meter per day of faecal sludge emptied in pits latrines and septic tanks which are also disposed in the ponds located in the area of the landfill.

According to the Auditor General in report submitted to Parliament last week, Kigali City was not involved in this agreement – as WASAC officials went it alone. The AG noted that there are no clear roles and responsibilities detailing what Kigali City and WASAC are supposed to do as far as the management of Nduba landfill is concerned.

“Currently, WASAC manages the landfill through the hired contractor and the City of Kigali collect and transport waste to the landfill through private companies. Therefore, it is difficult to know who is accountable for failure or success for the management of Nduba landfill,” said the AG Obadia Biraro in the voluminous report.

In the midst of this confusion, not only may billions of Francs have been wasted, but the area’s people are awaiting to live next to a heavily polluted site. At least Rwf 7.6 billion has been spent with nothing tangible to show for it.

The AG’s investigation found leachate, a very toxic liquid substance, is coming at the surface of the of the landfill. Leachate is common at improperly managed garbage at landfills.

Leachate often possesses high concentration of contaminants such as heavy metals which cause long-lasting damage to the surrounding environment and causing conditions like birth defects, blood disorders and some cancers, according medical literature.

At Nduba landfill, the investigators also identified accumulated gases coming out of the compacted solid wastes. This is caused by the lack of pipes installed underground the landfill to treat gases coming out of the compacted solid wastes.

“Consequently, this may explode anytime due to decomposition of wastes,” says the Auditor General’s report.

Available scientific research shows that landfills can produce objectionable odors and landfill gas can move through soil and collect in nearby buildings. Landfill gas contains many different gases. Methane and carbon dioxide make up 90 to 98% of landfill gas. The remaining 2 to 10% includes nitrogen, oxygen, ammonia, sulfides, hydrogen and various other gases.

Methane is the major component of natural gas. It is highly flammable and can form explosive mixtures with air if it concentrates in an enclosed space with poor ventilation. The range of air concentrations at which methane levels are considered to be an explosion hazard is 5 to 15% of the total air volume.

The good news, however, is that though Landfill gas explosions have happened in some countries, they are not common occurrences.

Various other problems were noted by the AG at the Nduba landfill including that there are risky faecal sludge ponds that are no longer in use because they are not closed.

In May 2014, the City of Kigali acquired an incinerator for the cost of Rwf 180,748,126that would handle hazardous and infectious waste at the landfill. The AG audit noted that the incinerator is idle and it has not worked since the time of its acquisition. Currently, all wastes to be incinerated are transferred to a private owned incinerator which is installed in Mageragere, another part of Kigali.

As a result, says AG, “there is no value for money derived from acquiring the incinerator”.

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1 Comment

  1. In some countries like China (I have seen the practice), household wastes and other wastes containing organic matters are used to produce industrial methane. Cannot this be done in Rwanda. I don’t about the profitability, but this can also be a leverage for the quality of the environment.
    And this should not be something beyond our reach. The policy of sorting waste at sources (households, businesses, factories) should be a good starting point and construction of huge digesters for the purpose. Also food processing factories should have their own digesters to recycle the energy contained in wastes. It is also part of green growth.

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