An extensive reed bed sewage treatment operation in the desert of the UAE (Green Prophet)

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Reed Beds: Cleaning Waste Water in the Desert

 by Richard Allenby Pratt

Earlier this year I decided to visit a strange looking waste management site in Um Al Quwain – one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates. From satellite imagery it looked like raw sewage was being dumped in the desert, just a couple of kilometres from Um Al Quwain’s precious mangrove estuary.

Access was my first problem, but after a couple of attempts I found a cross-dune route to the site and was surprised to find an extensive reed bed sewage treatment operation. Not only was this quite impressive, but the bordering desert, being mainly fenced off (to all but the most persistent photographers) was alive with a multitude of wildlife in an evidently rich desert oasis ecosystem.

Sadly, the chain of sewage treatment lakes was bordered on the other side by domestic waste, and other, landfill.



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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.