Methane as an alternative source of energy

A foul smell engulfs the Zomba Road in southern Malawi as one approaches Mzedi Dumpsite. Then an overflow of waste from the garbage dumping site in the area almost blocks the road.

Despite its nuisance to passers-by and those living in surrounding areas, the garbage site has proven to be of benefit to street children who pick up items from it for use or sale.

But it appears the Blantyre City Council (BCC) can use the garbage site to benefit more Malawians through the extraction of methane as an alternative source of energy.

Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which Malawi is a signatory to, government is mandated to implement carbon mitigation projects that would contribute to reducing carbon emissions which contribute to global warming, leading to climate change.

Chief environmental officer and focal point for CDM in the Environmental Affairs Department of the Ministry of Climate Change, Shamiso Najira, says several projects are being proposed under the carbon trading mechanism to reduce carbon emissions in Malawi.

She says one of the projects that government is recommending for private sector companies to carry out is a waste management project that would establish a landfill in the country’s major cities to capture emissions of methane from the waste that is currently being emitted into the atmosphere and causing global warming.

The said project will have both environmental and economic benefits for the country. Fortunate enough for Malawi, the country has dumping sites in all three regions and other unregistered sites that have become waste disposal places.

Najira points out that that the project would help government address the issue of indiscriminate disposal of waste which is a serious environmental issue facing the country.

“The project would contribute to sustainable development as all CDM projects are required to assist the host country in achieving sustainable development. Further, if designed accordingly, the project would generate electricity from methane gas and supply supplementary electricity to the nation if connected to the national grid.

“Other benefits for Malawi would be the project developer earning carbon credits and ultimately towards total income earnings for the country and would also provide inward investment and technology transfer for Malawi,” Najira said.

But that is not all. Methane gas has a global warming potential which is 21 times stronger than that of carbon dioxide, meaning that on the global carbon market, sale of methane gas would fetch 21 times more than carbon dioxide.

The use of methane as an alternative source of energy would also help reduce the burden of women who walk long distances to look for firewood. 

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