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Author: m.tadesse

Ethiopian Minister of Water and Energy visits Protecting Lake Hawassa (PLH) project site

Ecohydrology as an innovative, low-cost approach to soil erosion control has been embarked on in the Lake Hawassa sub-catchment by the Protecting Lake Hawassa partnership (PLH). This approach, due to its multiple benefits, became a preferred option among farmers over conventional soil erosion control methods.

Integrating physical structures with vegetation for a dual regulation of water flow. 

The Ethiopian Minister for Water and Energy, His Excellency Dr. Eng. Habtamu Itefa, visited one of the PLH project sites in Shalla Woreda on 15 November 2021. He was joined in the official visit by State Minister Dr. Abrham Adugna and the former Minister for Water, Irrigation, and Energy, Mr. Motuma Mekassa, as well as other higher officials. The visit was initiated by a mutual interest of the Ministry and Rift Valley Lakes Basin Office (RVLBO), aiming at showcasing successful projects in the basin. During the visit, the Minister pointed out that the project is very eco-friendly and successful in managing the increasing challenges of landscape degradation.

Government higher officials visiting one of the gullies rehabilitated with ecohydrology in Shalla woreda. 

A way forward

H.E. Dr. Eng. Habtamu mentioned that the technology has the potential to be scaled at national level after additional piloting in other parts of the rift valley basin. The government officials also acknowledged the suitability of the technology for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in providing multiple ecosystem services and sediment reduction. The technical manual “Ecohydrology-Based Landscape Restoration” developed with a collaborative effort of Hawassa University and PLH was highly appreciated by visitors. The Minister stated that this manual shall be nationally harmonized and officially adopted by the Ministry of Water and Energy, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, for wider circulation and implementation.

Introducing low-cost technology to improve PET collection in Addis Ababa

Studies indicate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. To sustainably counter the negative impacts of plastic on our environment and health, action is needed on all levels, with major improvements to waste management and recycling practices being pivotal to counter the current trends.

In Addis Ababa, plastic accounts for 15% of the total waste. PET, used mainly for water and soda bottles, makes up 41% of the total plastic waste generated in the city. Plastic pollution is a common problem in the city, and drainage channels are often clogged with plastic, including many PET bottles, increasing the risk for floodings.

Collected PET plastic at one of the collector association’s working stations, near the new stadium in Addis Ababa
Copyright: GIZ

Improving the collection and recycling of used plastics can contribute to alleviating plastic pollution in the city. However, many factors impede the efficiency of plastic collection and recycling. Among them are high transportation costs of unbaled plastics, a lack of space for waste collectors to sort already collected waste, as well as no access to electricity, which would allow collectors to scale up their operations by using baling machines.

Manual baling machines to improve PET collection

To counter these challenges, NatuReS has partnered up with Irish Aid and the Addis Ababa Solid Waste Management Agency (SWMA) on a project to design and pilot manual baling machines. The aim is to improve PET collection. Baling PET significantly lowers the costs to transport plastic to processors. At the same time, waste collectors receive a 40% premium when selling baled PET. The manual baling machine, which is cheaper to procure and operate than its electric counterpart, will incentivize waste collectors to collect more PET, contributing to cleaner streets while creating additional employment opportunities in the plastic value chain.

Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by Dr. Eshetu Lemma, General Manager of the Addis Ababa Solid Waste Management Agency, and James Njeru, NatuReS Country Coordinator Ethiopia (from left to right)
Copyright: GIZ

Nature-Based Solutions to reduce pollution of lake Hawassa

The use of wetlands for water pollution control dates back to the ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilizations. Wetlands reduce water pollution by removing pollutants coming from surface waters. Constructed wetlands (CW) provide sustainable, low cost, robust and efficiently engineered systems for water treatment, with added ecosystem services.

Since its construction in 2013, Amora Gedel (Eagle’s Valley) CW has been serving to improve the quality of storm water discharging into the lake Hawassa. Amora Gedel was constructed as a joint project by the Hawassa City Administration and the World Bank in Hawassa City. Due to increasing wear-and-tear, human activities, inadequate operation and maintenance over the years, a general overhaul was much needed. Protecting lake Hawassa (PLH) members identified the CW as one of the priority action areas.

People working on the constructed wetland Amora Gedel
Rehabilitating Amora Gedel constructed wetland to reduce pollutants entering Lake Hawassa
Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia

Joint action

Earlier this year, NatuReS and the Hawassa Municipality embarked on rehabilitating the Amora Gedel CW. The rehabilitation is part of the PLH Partnership activities. Pooling resources together, NatuReS took the responsibility over the renovation works. Ensuring the long-term sustainability and functionality of the CW will be a task overseen by the municipality.

An Ethiopia-based wastewater construction company is conducting the rehabilitation and supervised by Aquacon Engineering consultants. The Municipality also provided operators for maintaining the CW once rehabilitated. A team from the Municipality, Acquacon, NatuReS and community representatives will carry out the inspection and follow-up work.

Protecting Lake Hawassa members visiting Amora Gedel wetland
PLH members visiting the construction site
Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia

The Rift Valley Lakes including Lake Hawassa are currently experiencing a rise in water levels. Amora Gedel rehabilitation is facing challenges from this water level rise, as it results in a mix of lake and storm water. Considering this phenomenon, NatuReS and its partners are acting to reduce the risk and make the CW climate-proof. Raising the whole water treatment ponds by 50cm and rerouting the inlet deliver channel is the action taken to address this risk.

Nature-based solution

Restored to its former glory, the Amora Gedel CW will again be able to treat the first flash of storm water from the city’s drainage channels. This is important, as the first flow is the most polluted, sweeping away dust and garbage from the drainage channels towards the lake. The municipal staff will be collecting large particles such as plastic bottles trapped by the trash rack. Through a biological process, the smaller pollutants, including heavy metals, will be filtered from the water in the CW. This process will make use of aquatic plants (i.e. reeds, duckweed), naturally occurring microorganisms and a filter bed (sand, soils and gravel). The completion of the CW will be right before the start of the rainy season in June.

Improving WASH service in Hawassa city

“Wash your hands” has become one of the most used phrases during the current Covid-19 pandemic. The importance of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to reduce the risk of infectious diseases has become a well-established fact and is even more emphasized since the outbreak of the pandemic.

However, access to potable water is a long-standing challenge for the city of Hawassa with its more than 300.000 inhabitants in central Ethiopia. To improve access to WASH services and minimize the risk of a Covid-19 infection, NatuReS and PVH supported the Hawassa Water Supply and Sewerage Service Enterprise (HWSSSE) with two submersible, one surface pump and corresponding accessories worth approx. 85.000 euros.

Representatives of NatuReS and PVH handing over the water pumps to HWSSSE Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia
Representatives of NatuReS and PVH handing over the water pumps to HWSSSE
Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia

A ceremony to hand over the equipment was held on February 10th, 2021, attended by high government officials, including Dr. Beshah Behailu, Commissioner at the Water Development Commission, and Prof. Tsegaye Tuke, Deputy Mayor of Hawassa City. Representatives from Sidama regional government as well as from different media were present.

NatuReS country coordinator in Ethiopia James Njeru explaining the different activities to improve water access undertaken in the area Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia
NatuReS country coordinator in Ethiopia James Njeru explaining the different activities to improve water access undertaken in the area
Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia

During the ceremony, several representatives underlined the importance of NatuReS’ and PVH’s support to improve water access in Hawassa city. The city administration moreover pledged to provide additional resources to ensure the operationality and maintenance of the pumps in the future. The pumps will improve water supply service for about 81,000 residents of Hawassa City. 

Site visit to boreholes that will supply residents of Hawassa with potable water due to operation of the pumps Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia
Site visit to boreholes that will supply residents of Hawassa with potable water due to operation of the pumps
Copyright: NatuReS Ethiopia
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