By Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb
Addis Abeba, October 16/2020 – The coming March, 2021 will mark the fifth year since the one and only landfill dump site in Addis Abeba Reppi (locally named Qoshe) collapsed and killed more than 115 individuals and displaced the remaining without any assets. A three-day nationwide mourning was declared in Ethiopia.
Currently, more than 82 households with legal documents and more than 132 households without legal documents live together in the very high-risk zone.
“The landfill is more than 55 years. I can’t say it is 100 percent safe. One day it may collapse. That is why we are pushing the stakeholder to resettle the vulnerable community nearby”,Dr. Eshetu Lemma, Director General for Addis Abeba Solid Waste Management Agency.
Agegnhush Arega, a mother of four living close to the landfill, was one of the ‘undocumented’ residents in Reppi. She told Addis Standard that she has been living here for the last eight years. “I am leprosy patient so I am not capable of renting a house. I have a son who is also affected by leprosy. Where can we go? They call us as illegal but will they give us any other option?” she implored with a low sad voice. Agegnhush, is one of the 132 households in the Reppi that the government considers illegal.
And there is the story of Adanech Birega, 50, a mother of four, came to Addis Abeba after she lost her husband in Hossana, Hadiya Zone, SNNP region. Currently, living in a rented home paying 200 birr per month, she is one of the informal garbage collectors in Reppi Waste to Energy Plant. “Living and working in this area is very dangerous for our lives but I have no option. I have to struggle with what I have’’ said Adanech. Reppi, is not only the landfill it is also a means of income for parts of the unemployed vulnerable community living nearby.
Addis Abeba city disposes 1,500 tons to 2,000 tons of waste per day according to Addis Abeba Solid Waste Management Agency. However, Dr. Eshetu Lemma, said 70 percent of the waste is organic and it could be changed to different resources. “Last year we recycled more than 35,000 tons of waste and the 6,400 workers earned 99 million birr. The recycled amount share is 4.5 – 5 percent of the total amount collected throughout the year while the total annual waste of Addis Abeba is expected to be from 547,500 – 730,000 tons.’’ Dr. Eshetu added that the agency is working with more than 18 factories who recycle plastic, paper and clothes.
Occupying more than 37 hectares, Qoshe was not constructed to be a landfill. “If you recall the unsuccessful Sendafa Sanitary Landfill project, it was on the way to be a well planned landfill but things didn’t go as expected. After the Sandafa Sanitary Landfill project failed for many reasons, the government built the Reppi Waste to Energy Plant which took four years for construction. The plant was expected to convert 65 – 70 percent of the daily waste to energy. Currently the plant it taking only 47 percent for different reasons”, the Director told Addis Standard.
The Debate on the Sewage
While Addis Standard observed the nearby vulnerable Reppi residents, they were complaining about the water sewage they said is coming from the Plant. “During the rainy season the sewage smells terrible and currently with the sunny season it’s going to be even worse.You can’t even sleep at home”, said Selenat Eneyew, a mother of six living on the side of Reppi. According to Selenat, she has been living in that area since 2005.
Reppi Waste to Energy Plant Project Manager Bruk Ebba argued that “the sewage from the plant doesn’t have any toxicity at all”. “We receive all the waste from Addis Abeba waste management agency. The majority of the waste is solid but we also received biodegradable waste sometimes. We do have a treatment plant for the liquid sediment. So the sewage from the plant is standard water which doesn’t harm the society and the environment”, said Bruk.
According to the project manager, since the plant is found in the middle of accumulated waste which contains toxic moisture throughout years, maybe the community thought that the sewage is connected to this.
The Unknown Fate of Undocumented Community of Reppi
Samuel Abebe, Head of Administration for the Kolfe Keranio Sub City Wereda 01, told Addis Standard that the sub city was trying to resettle the nearby Reppi community. “It is almost three month since I was assigned to this position. So, I don’t have detailed information about the past. What I know currently is that the Sub City Land Development & Urban Renewal office is working on it.”
Samuel Abebe, the Administrator, also said the “residents don’t have any legal document which complicates the problem even worse”. “I know there are ongoing initiatives to resettle those with legal documents. The residents without any legal documents are the ones who grabbed land after 2005 and therefore are excluded from receiving compensation or resettlement”, according to Samuel. Regarding the future of those who are undocumented and highly vulnerable, the administrator referred Addis Standard to the sub city land development and a urban renewal office.
Yerga Werekenh, Kolfe Keranio Sub City Land Development and Urban Renewal office head told Addis Standard that “the issue of the undocumented settlers needs Cabinet decision.” He continued “We do get letters about the vulnerable community from the Peace and Security office. After the previous deadly accident, we continued to resettle the those in the landfill in different zones but still there are a lot of unsolved problems.” According to the office head, the government is working only with those that have legal documents. Even with them there are challenges. “After we gave them a substitute and compensation there was reluctance from the government and the community for different reasons. This was because there was an insufficient infrastructure at the new settlement area, different court cases in relation to the farmers who used to own that land and shortage and expensiveness of construction materials on the market are some points raised by both’’ Yerga said.
“Obviously, the government is considering only those who have legal documents and those settlers who lived before 2005. But we can’t leave the undocumented behind for any reason.” said Yerga. According to the information Addis Standard obtained from the Kolfe Keranio Sub City Land Development and Urban Renewal office, after the deadly accident, two rounds of resettlement were underway excluding the so called ‘undocumented residents. In the third round, the government registered 132 households without documents and 62 with a legal document. However, only the latter will have a chance for new home.
Thus, the undocumented residents of Reppi and their risk of going through a landfill collapse again still loomed at large. AS