The infamous Durban landfills are to be put to good use in a multimillion-rand project set up to provide electricity to at least 9 000 families in the eThekwini municipality and generate more than R56-million in revenue for the city.

The plan, a brainchild of the World Bank, is to harness the "large volumes" of gases emitted daily from the three major dumps in La Mercy, Springfield Park and Mariannhill and convert it into power.

On Thursday night, deputy mayor Logie Naidoo said the municipality was the first in the country to be selected by the World Bank as a launch site for the project.

The region is expected to act as a pilot for the idea to be implemented elsewhere.

Communities near the dumps are expected to breathe a sigh of relief as the project means the emissions from the landfills, which include a strong stench, will be contained and environmentalists will be particularly excited, according to a supporting document.

The greenhouse effect of methane gas, a major component of the gases emitted from the dumps, would be suppressed and the gas would be turned into electricity.

The idea was first introduced to the eThekwini Solid Waste officials by representatives of the Prototype Carbon Fund, an environmentalist body which is attached to the World Bank, when they met during the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg last year.

The meeting came soon after the city, with assistance from the University of Natal, had completed its research into projects for the management of landfill gas emissions.

According to a document before the council, the overall aim of the project is to develop clean technology to combat climate change by way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

In pushing for the idea, the World Bank blames these emissions for global warming and climate change, saying the conditions are causing serious droughts the world over.

It is estimated that 80 percent of the gas coming from the dumps would be piped to generators for the generation of power envisaged to be sustained at 10Mw and fed directly to the city's grid.

"This supply will be sustainable for 24 hours daily and all year round. This can be further equated to power for 9 000 average-sized homes or, alternatively, 25 000 low-cost homes," officials said.

"The project realises an estimated net profit of R56,9 million to the city."

It is expected to get off the ground as soon as an environmental impact assessment has been completed at the end of the year.

The assessment will be done together with consultation of the public and the private sector.

To start the project, R12,4-million would be sought from the state treasury as no provision has been made in this financial year's budget.

"We think it's a very innovative project. We are excited that our city was chosen (for the pilot project). We hope to generate substantial energy for our people, and the project would have positive spin-offs in terms of job creation for both the unskilled and highly skilled labour," said Naidoo.