Update: Cash-for-trash deal – on or off?

Umdoni Municipality, Scottburgh, Mid South Coast Mail, South Coast Herald, KZN,
Pic taken from Umdoni Municipality website.

DESPITE a direct ‘no’ from the Department of Environmental Affairs, Umdoni Municipality is going ahead with feasibility checks into importing trash from war-torn Lebanon.

Still in talks with Serengeti and Veriworkz, Umdoni Municipality has said that it has expressed interest in the deal but has not finalised anything yet, as it is still looking at the feasibility and profitability of importing trash from Lebanon. Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, stated that the municipality would not go ahead with the importation of waste “under any circumstances.”

Currently, South Africa only has an agreement to import waste if it knows exactly what waste it is importing and, although the waste has been classified categorically, 10 percent of the waste has not been made known.

Should the proposal be approved and it goes ahead, Umdoni stands to make an unbelievable R4.3-million per month over 18 months. However, Councillor Eddie Baptie feels the municipality should put its resources to better use.

“Umdoni should focus its energy and resources on providing quality basic services such as roads, pavements and storm water management. The provision of good public infrastructure, good customer services, useful information and processes that facilitate economic growth, these are the kind of things we ought to be doing,” said Cllr Baptie.

He added that people can be forgiven for thinking that the proposal to import waste from Lebanon has met an early demise following Minister Molewa’s report.

“It is likely that this particular project is part of a much larger waste-to-energy initiative that has increased in financial viability due to the current weakness of the rand. There remains however, a moral and an ethical issue here. Should South Africa become the rubbish bin of the planet, because it promises to make us some money. As much as we need economic growth to support more jobs, is this a responsible way to reach that goal?” asked Cllr Baptie

Speaking to SABC News, Umdoni municipal manager Xolani Luthuli stated: “With informing ratepayers, we really have not. There is no legislation at this point that has said to us we need to inform them in terms of public participation.” (sic)

Mr Luthuli further told SABC News: “We have not actually signed any agreements on this matter as such; we only had a proposal and council agreed to give us instructions to look into the feasibility of it. Now, obviously, the figures will be indicated through an agreement on the tonnage that we are going to be receiving at a particular time. Based on that, we will be able to calculate the income. We are in the very first stage of this process.”

Stating more concerns in regards to the project to import waste, Cllr Baptie said: “A municipality that has failed year on year to spend its capital budgets, has allowed road infrastructure to crumble, public confidence to evaporate, functional revenue streams to disappear and has a track record of zero communication, wants to import 5.4-million tons of waste from the other side of the planet, without a business plan, without any public consultation, without legal compliance, without risk assessment and without due diligence.”

However, in a press statement issued recently, municipal manager Xolani Luthuli said the municipality was concerned about what he called “misleading and untruthful media reporting” regarding the cash-for-waste controversy.

The reports alleged that the municipality had signed an agreement that would allow waste matter from Lebanon to be disposed of at its landfill site in exchange for cash.

“It is critical to indicate that the municipality just allowed a presentation with a proposal in that regard. Council then resolved to allow the administration to explore the possibilities of committing but within all the ambits of the relevant and necessary legislation, processes and also cognisant of the opportunities and risks involved,” Mr Luthuli said.

All the legal and environmental aspects would be examined and the municipality would also see whether it had enough capacity to deal with the amount and the type of waste that Lebanon wished to export, – Municipal manager,  Xolani Luthuli

Mr Luthuli assured residents that the municipality would leave no stone unturned to ensure that all parties that would be happy with whatever agreement was made and that it would comply with all the legal and environmental prescripts. This included an inclusive consultation process.

He reiterated that Umdoni Local Municipality had not signed an agreement that sought to undermine waste management and international agreements and and that the municipality was committed to promoting an eco-friendly environment.


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Juan Venter

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