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Koshe Landfill and biogas plant, Ethiopia


The massive rubbish dump known as Koshe (that it means dirt in Aramaic) or Repi or Reppi in the outskirts of Addis Ababa slid down on 11 March 2017 provoking the death of at least 113 people and a dozen of injured. The landslide also levelled more than 30 makeshift homes built of mud and sticks where perhaps more than 300 people of squatters were living.

The landfill has been a dumping ground rubbish for more than 50 years and it is currently the biggest of the country. City officials say close to 300,000 tonnes of waste are collected each year from the estimated four million resident’s capital. About 500 qorales—the local term for small-scale unregistered waste collectors – are believed to work at the landfill every day, scavenging for food and items they can sell such as recyclable metal sorting through the debris (6) (2) (1) (9).

The informal plastics recovery system is particularly efficient, in that an estimated high volume of plastic materials (23 tons) is informally collected and recycled. However, the municipality has never developed any systematic efforts to integrate the informal waste collectors into the formal waste management system and their significant contribution to waste reduction, reuse and recycling was either unrecognized or ignored. On the contrary, conflicts and hostilities between formal and informal operators are still serious (9).

Waste-pickers and communities settled around the landfill are exposed to great health risks due to the high levels of environmental contamination, including ground and surface water contamination. A project to capture and flare methane fumes, to limit greenhouse gas emissions, has been operational since 2013. However, the Repi landfill site does not meet the necessary criteria yet, not least in terms of minimum buffer distances required for safe waste disposal, between the site and other land use activities, such as settlements, schools, hospitals and recreation. (11) Smaller landslides have occurred at the Koshe landfill in the past two years, leading to the loss of lives and injuries, albeit at a smaller scale. Local residents blamed for that landslides a biogas plant being constructed since 2013 on the top of the rubbish. The project aim to turn waste into a source of clean energy generating 50 megawatts of electricity upon completion (initially expected for the last year) (2) (6) (3). The Communications Minister Negeri Lencho said the cause of the landslide was still being investigated and denied that the plant’s construction had anything to do with the collapse. He blamed the squatters for digging into the hillside, destabilizing it and causing it to fall. And he added that all the shacks built on the landfill would be demolished and the residents resettled elsewhere. According Amnesty International the government was fully responsible for the disaster, because it was aware that the landfill was full to capacity but continued to use it regardless. It also let hundreds of people continue to live in close proximity to it (6).

More recently the government has planned to shut down the site and open a new landfill outside the capital in 2016. But that was in a town called Sendafa in the Oromia region, home to the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, who have long complained of marginalization at the hands of the government. Oromo grievances erupted into widespread protests starting in late 2015, and security agents often responded with deadly force. After Oromo farmers blocked garbage trucks from dumping at the Sendafa site in July, Repi had to resume its role as Addis Ababa’s main dumping ground (11).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Koshe Landfill and biogas plant, Ethiopia
State or province:Addis Ababa
Location of conflict:Addis Ababa
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

A biogas plant project is under construction and it aims to burn 1,400 tons of Repi garbage daily and generate 185 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually. Cambridge Industries, the development and construction company that is spearheading the project, estimates that it could power 25 percent of the capital’s households. The 50 MW waste to energy plant could be the first of 35, according to a report by Capital Ethiopia. The facility will be owned by the state power utility company Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) and will provide around 100 skilled jobs in the area.(11)

Project area:36-hectare
Level of Investment for the conflictive project120,000,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2003
Company names or state enterprises:Cambridge Industries Ldt from United Kingdom

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
International ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Deaths
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No

Sources & Materials

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


the Integration of Informal Actors in Public Solid Waste Management in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African Studies Quarterly | Volume 11, Issues 2 & 3 | Spring 2010

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(4)Aljazeera, Addis Ababa: Death toll hits 113 in rubbish landslide, 15 MARCH 2017

(6) The Guardian, Death toll from rubbish dump landslide in Ethiopia rises to 65, Monday 13 March 2017

CBNews, Dozens killed in Ethiopia garbage dump landslide, March 12 2017


(5) Caroline Knowles, Inside Addis Ababa's Koshe rubbish tip: where hundreds literally scratch a living, The Guardian, Friday 22 August 2014

(6) The Guardian, Death toll from rubbish dump landslide in Ethiopia rises to 65, 13 March 2017

(3)Aljazeera, Death toll soars to 82 in Addis Ababa rubbish landslide, 14 MARCH 2017

(2)Aljazeera, Addis Ababa: Massive rubbish landslide kills dozens, 12 MARCH 2017

(11)HADRA AHMED and JACEY FORTIN, As Trash Avalanche Toll Rises in Ethiopia, Survivors Ask Why, The New York Times, MARCH 20, 2017

(1)La Repubblica, Etiopia, frana nella discarica di Addis Abeba: almeno 46 le vittime, 12 March 2017

Briana Duggan, Ryan Prior and Joe Sterling, Ethiopian landslide puts focus on landfill squatters, CNN, 13 March 2017

Meta information

Contributor:Carla Petricca
Last update11/04/2017
Conflict ID:2734



Excavators move earth as rescuers work at the site of the landslide Photograph: Zacharias Abubeker/AFP/Getty Images (6)