Reforestation on sewage effluent




In an innovative forestry project known as the Serapium forest, Egypt has found a solution to desertification – when fertile land becomes deserts with the persistent degradation of dryland.

The solution was planting forests. This is easier said than done as 96% of Egypt is consumed by deserts and Egyptian deserts have virtually no rain falls. But researchers in Egpyt have found a way to repurpose wastewater instead of tapping into the sparse fresh water supply. The result? A thriving tree plantation in the middle of the Egyptian desert.

According to Deutsche Welle (DW), the Serapium forest project is a research programme that was initiated by the Egyptian government in the 1990s with the aim to green 36 different desert locations. An array of native tree species were planted alongside commercially valuable non-native species including Eucalyptus and Mahogany.

The source of wastewater is based in northern Egypt, an approximate two hours car ride from Cairo. The body of waastewater is the drainage basin with sewage effluent produced by the inhabitants of the nearby town, Ismailia.

The individual trees in the 200-acre of the 500-acre plantation are given five litres of the repurposed water twice a day without the necessity of extra fertilizer as the effulent water delivers the nutrients needed. Regular tests have also shown that there was no contamination in the soil with the effluent, DW reported.

In fact, with oxygen and microbes added into the effluent, results showed a high concentration of phosphates and nitrogen compounds to deliver quality fertilizers found in powder form at gardening shops.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

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