HomeAnalysisEditor’s Memo: Pomona: Another grab-and-run project

Editor’s Memo: Pomona: Another grab-and-run project

Nevanji Madanhire
The outrage over the Pomona waste-to-energy (WTE) project has been driven mainly by the characters on the one end of it who have been implicated in huge scandals before.

The fires of the outrage have also been stoked by the cost to the broke Harare City Council and hence to the ratepayer. Delish Nguwaya is infamous for his involvement in the Drax Scandal in which tender procedures were violated in order for his company to win the business of supplying Covid-19 treatment goods and accessories.

He is also deemed by the public, fairly or unfairly, as a front of the first family.

Where WTE projects have been successful around the world, the business survives on affordable gate fees and electricity feed-in tariffs. In the Pomona case the gate fees — meaning the amount charged Council for bringing waste to the plant — is a staggering US$22 000 a day. This is the main reason for the public horror. It is common knowledge that HCC is a basket case.

If it had anything close to that amount to spend a day all the woes the citizens suffer daily would not exist.

These include the lack of water in the suburbs, the potholed roads, to name just two.

But there are many other compelling reasons why the project should not go ahead, or at least, be postponed until a proper feasibility study has been made.

Most Western countries including the US are closing WTE plants.

In some countries the viability challenge has been caused by inadequate waste. Some countries that still run them have now resorted to importing waste. Does Harare produce enough waste every day to make the project viable for 30 years?

In most cities around the world this has not been the case.

Because of this shortage of waste, many countries have had to abandon other green methods of waste management to continue to feed the WTE plants much to the ire of environmentalists and climatologists.

It has been seen that WTE projects work against other ways of managing waste which are much more environmentally friendly such as reuse and recycling. Instead of reusing and recycling, all the waste, without separation, will be used as feedstock for the plant.

Climatologists also argue that energy produced by these plants is not green; it’s no different from what is referred to as fossil fuel because, like thermal plants that use coal or gas, it produces gases that affect the atmosphere and aid climate change. Developed countries are making strides towards banning fossil fuels. In the European Union WTE projects no longer get bank funding and most of them are being shut.

The ideal situation, environmentalists and climatologists argue, is to separate waste collection, recycle it if it is recyclable and to use waste as raw materials. This means only the waste that cannot be recycled or used as raw materials will have to go to the WTE plant. Again, does Harare have enough such waste to sustain the plant?

In contrast, in Southeast Asia, countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, WTE plants are being erected but that is because these countries face totally different challenges centred around the lack of landfills. But they have to invest loads of money in the technology that ensures that the plants are environmentally friendly.

The plants have to have sophisticated pollution and dioxin filters to protect the environment and human health. Have all these issues been addressed for the Pomona project which looks pretty hurried?

Was the project properly marketed and explained to the general public? Without the full buy-in of municipal authorities the long-term support and viability of the project will be impossible. Many suspect this is just another grab-the-money-and-run project.

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