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Bisasar Rd Landfill Site, South Africa


Located in the historically coloured and Indian area of Durban, the Bisasar Road landfill methane electricity project converts dangerous methane emissions from rotting rubbish into electricity. It is the South Africas largest landfill and a leading CDM pilot project. Opened in 1980 by the apartheid regime, the dump processes 3000 to 5000 tones of (hazardous) waste daily and has caused an increase in cancer rates. It was set up illegally because it fails the crucial test of validity for raising international funding and has disincentivised the closure of the toxic dump site, despite strong community pressure. Furthermore, it has not been successful at capturing the expected levels of methane.

The project has been characterized by environmental racism, intra-community conflict, municipal fraud, United Nations incompetence, and a failure of the methane extraction system even on its own terms.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Bisasar Rd Landfill Site, South Africa
Country:South Africa
State or province:KwaZulu Natal
Location of conflict:Durban
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Carbon offsets

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Bisasar Road Dump in Durbans Clare estate is Africas largest landfill.

The dump processes 3000 to 5000 tones of (hazardous) waste daily.

It has been dubbed a cancer hotspot by the Cancer Association of South Africa. Despite repeated calls for closure by 6000 community members, the dump gained a new lease on life when it became a pilot CDM project.

It burns toxic methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into carbon dioxide and electricity.

The World Bank initially committed to invest $14.4 million to cover the project set up. According to the municipal agency of Durban solid waste, what makes the project worthwhile is the revenue that they earn from carbon credits, estimated at 3.1 million certified emissions credits worth $15 million along with 6-8 megawatts of electricity over a 20 year lifespan. Initially it was assumed that the R100 million estimated cost of the project would not be justified by the small amount of electricity fed into Durbans municipal supply, and it would have to come from external sources. But at least one official now concedes that the project would have gone ahead without external credits.

World Bank helped to set up the project but refused in 2005 to purchase emissions credits in response to growing concern over Durbans environmentally racist policies and an environmental impact assessment.

In late 2006, the French Development Agency pledged long-term loans of $8 million to Durbans landfill gas projects (Bisasar is by far the largest of three), alongside $1.3 million extended by South Africas Department of Trade and Industry.

In March 2009, the municipality registered it on the United Nations list of CDM projects, as active through at least 2014.

Level of Investment for the conflictive project9100000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:1996
Company names or state enterprises:Durban Solid Waste from South Africa
Environmental Waste Solutions from South Africa
Relevant government actors:Department of Trade and Industry, Durban Solid Waste of Ethekwini Municipality, Ethekwini Municipality
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
French Development Agency (AFD) from France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sajida Khan, South Durban Community

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
-Abahlali Base Mjondolo, shack-dwellers movement in South Africa
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents


Project StatusIn operation
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Extract the methane gas through a pipeline
-Retract the CDM
-Close the dump
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although the World Bank removed its support for the project, the Bisasar Rd Landfill site is still open and generating carbon credits through biogas electricity generation.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Patrick Bond, True cost of Durbans waste strategy, The Mercury, 2 February 2010.

Khadija Sharife and Patrick Bond, False solutions to climate crisis amplify ecoFinjustices,Women in Action, 2009,2.

Patrick Bond, Privatization of the air turns lethal,Capitalism Nature Socialism,18,4,2007.

Meta information

Contributor:Khadija Sharife
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:361