Amman’s Al Ghabawi solid waste landfill, around 30 km east of Jordan’s capital, announces itself from a distance. The closer one approaches, the more plastic bags, paper and other waste, blown away by the wind, litter the road side.
Amman has boomed in recent years. Since 2010, its population is estimated to have increased by between a third and a half.
While this can partly be attributed to the ‘urban pull’ factor well known in most transition economies, many of the new arrivals are seeking refuge from political conflict and war in neighbouring countries.
The EBRD is supporting the capital and helping it cope with this influx. A US$ 13 million loan to Greater Amman Municipality, for example, will serve to substantially modernise the Al Ghabawi landfill.
With temperatures soaring above 40°C in the summer, a much-needed general upgrade of the site will help to make it more sanitary.
Furthermore, the modernisation includes an innovative component that will lead to significant environmental benefits and help produce energy.
Tube-like collection systems subtract gas from underneath the landfill. This then generates electricity, which will be supplied to the national grid and help satisfy Jordan’s increased energy needs.
The electricity also substitutes for other energy sources, such as those from power plants relying on heavy fuel oil.
“This is the first project of its kind in Jordan,” said Heike Harmgart, the EBRD’s Head of Amman office.
“The country has not been blessed with great natural wealth, unlike some of its neighbours. It is therefore even more important to make use of all available energy sources.”
The International Cooperation Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) co-finances the investment through the Green Energy Special Fund.
Furthermore, the European Union (EU) and Austria supported the project by funding a feasibility study, environmental and social due diligence as well as other project monitoring and implementation activities. The Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Multi-Donor Account (MDA)* and the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund are providing US$ 950,000 for corporate development and governance-related technical assistance.
Adequate municipal services are now more important than ever in Jordan. While the country has always provided shelter to neighbours in need, the number of Syrian refugees alone is now estimated to amount to a staggering 1.4 million.
This has put an enormous strain on municipal services such as waste management, but also water and wastewater infrastructure.
It is a problem that affects not only Amman, but the whole country. An estimated one out of five people residing in Jordan is now a refugee.
The EBRD has thus stepped up its support in recent months. In December it provided the Water Authority of Jordan with a US$ 14 million loan to upgrade a wastewater pipeline in Al Zarqa leading to Jordan’s largest wastewater plant in As-Samra, located half way between Amman and the Syrian border.
Again, the EU and the SEMED MDA support the investments with various technical cooperation activities.
“Jordan is among the driest countries on earth, which makes water all the more precious as a resource,” said Ms Harmgart.
“This is why our investments in the sector can make a real difference and lead to tangible improvement in people’s everyday lives all across the country.”
*SEMED MDA donors include: Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taipei China and the United Kingdom.