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Turning waste into energy with a public-private partnership

Faridpur and Satkhira municipalities in Bangladesh face challenges in their waste-disposal. The NGO Practical Action set out to put solutions into practice in 2016. Together with the Sustainable Water Fund (FDW) programme, Practical Action formed a public-private partnership (PPP). The PPP planned for months to get the job done. But then the initial private partner left the partnership.

Faridpur and Satkhira lack effective waste management. As a result, they face an increasing amount of household and faecal waste. Rivers suffer from illegal garbage disposal. To solve challenges like these, PPPs can address the whole problem. Companies can share their expertise and offer financing that a local government may lack. Practical Action connected local governments with private partners and brought in extra experience.

Finding a new partner

But after 3 months, the private partner withdrew from the partnership. “A PPP like this requires a considerable investment from the private partner,” says Michiel Slotema, project advisor for FDW. “That is why the local government gives favourable conditions. In this case, by offering land, concessions and waste collection services. This supports a workable business case for the private partner.”

Without the initial private partner, Practical Action had to find a replacement. “Identifying and convincing suitable private partners does not happen overnight,” Mr Slotema says. “It took us 2 years to get where we are now. We extended the start of the implementation phase 4 or 5 times. Because we saw that they kept making progress in securing new private partners.”

The benefits of a good business case

“Our partnership with FDW is about a lot more than money,” says Uttam Kumar Saha, Strategic Lead for Practical Action in Bangladesh. “The Netherlands Enterprise Agency also helps us learn and share our lessons with others. They have shared connections, knowledge, and resources from organisations across the world. The FDW project tools and checklists have also helped us to organise the project better.”

With a well-formulated business case, Practical Action found 2 new private partners: Natural Synergies Ltd (United Kingdom) and CapitaLand and Development Ltd (Bangladesh). Natural Synergies is currently importing the necessary technology and machines to Bangladesh. The first test case will run in Faridpur.

From waste to energy

With local technology and materials, Natural Synergies will make a second waste-to-energy plant. “We have organised the waste collection and separation services with the municipalities, local NGOs and entrepreneurs. We are also developing a workers’ cooperative,” says Mr Saha. “We are now finally in the business of municipal waste management.”

The plant will process household toilet waste and garbage to organic fertiliser and natural gas. This gas will be used in vehicles. The project has a phased approach. Once it has proven it is viable in Faridpur, a plant in Satkhira will follow. “The FDW programme aims to help water safety and security in developing countries through a PPP approach. We hope this project will showcase this approach,” says Mr Slotema.

FDW has over 40 projects in 22 countries, and covers 3 themes:

  • drinking water and sanitation, including waste management,
  • water efficiency in agriculture, and
  • integrated water management.