The devastating methane gas explosion and subsequent landslide in Leuwigajah landfill in Bandung, Indonesia, should be a lesson for the Philippines to be “proactive’” about trash, a researcher from the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) said.
Devina Arlingdarma, ERIA researcher said the incident led to the closure of the landfill, and the transfer of its functions to Sarimukti landfill, which will also be closed soon.
The tragedy, Arlingdarma said, serves as a painful reminder to take better care of our solid waste facilities.
She said open dumping sites are found not only in Indonesia, raising concerns about solid waste management.
In a recent report by CNN, Arlingdarma said the Brahmapuram landfill in India was found to have burned, causing harm to the residents and firefighters who fainted from the methane gas produced by the incident.
She said opening a dumpsite or rehabilitating an existing one is not an easy task. Regulation of indonesia’s Minister of Finance on funding support for state revenue and expenditure budget for waste management in the regions, allocates Rp500,000 (about $32) for waste processing in municipalities. The amount is for recycling, reducing, sorting, and treating trash of up to 1 ton.
To mitigate the lack of funds, she said at least three landfill models are being considered: anaerobic, semi-aerobic, and aerobic landfills.
Judging from Indonesia’s topography and cultural similarities, Arlingdarma said it is possible to utilise the semi-aerobic landfill mechanism used in the Ampang Jajar Landfill in Malaysia and the Nam Son Landfill in Ha Noi City.
She emphasized that a cheap alternative does not mean reduced benefits.
“Processing methane gas into carbon dioxide is significant in slowing down the greenhouse effect by turning the poisonous gas into a lesser evil for the ozone layer,” she said.
The alternative reduces the possibility of methane gas exploding and endangering landfill workers and residents living near the facilities.
The waste repository would have a built-in processing system to protect groundwater and rivers from landfill leachates.
The alternative, however, is not fool proof. Without a strong recycling facility to support the waste repository, the landfill will continue to contain heterogeneous waste, which, in turn, would prevent the semi-aerobic landfill from functioning properly without risking leakage of microplastics into the sea or groundwater.
However, we can only work together if we have transparent reports, budgets, and resources. Soekarno, one of Indonesia’s founding fathers, once said we should not leave our history behind.
“We, too, need to take the lessons from the Leuwigajah incident to heart and strive to never let garbage go untreated, for the benefit of our planet and the safety of our people,” Soekatno pointed out.