Making the Egyptian Desert Bloom Using Recycled Water

Stopping Desertification by planting forests.

Jan 10, 2020

The ancient world developed in places like the fertile crescent between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates that were used to provide water for drinking and irrigation. And Egypt depended on the Nile River to overflow its banks yearly to give the land abundant fertility.

Today, the region suffers from desert creep, as the land gets hotter and drier. In fact, over 90 percent of Egypt is made up of deserts. So how is Egypt growing new forests and getting greener?

Located just 16 kilometers west of the Suez Canal, the 500-acres Serapium Forest is just one of 36 land areas that are part of a desertification project of planting manmade sustainable forests that are sustained by treated sewage water.

The forest is located near Ishmailia, a city with a population of 400,000 that produces tons of sewage that is moved to massive microorganism-populated underground vats according to The Good News Network. The waste is treated and piped into the forest.

Since the treated wastewater is still rich in nitrogen and phosphorus – found in fertilizer –  that allows the forest to grow quickly.

The project is part of an Egyptian national program for the safe use of treated sewage water that began 25 years ago. Diverting sewage for irrigating trees keeps it out of the Nile as well as stopping desertification in its tracks.

“Afforestation with wastewater has great potential,” Hany El Kateb, a native Egyptian who teaches forestry science at the Technical University of Munich told Reasons To Be Cheerful. “We could provide work in arid  regions around the world and give people a reason not to leave.” 

“Egypt’s 97 million inhabitants produce seven billion cubic meters of wastewater every year, enough to green 1.6 million acres of desert,” El Kateb said.

The research was supported by Forest Finance, an international company headquartered in  Germany that is committed to building and maintaining forests.

“We see the use of wastewater and desert land as an opportunity to build an economic model for sustainable forestry in arid regions,” said Dirk Walterspacher, managing director of Forest Finance. “This is where climate protection, the push back of the desert, wastewater recycling and sustainable forest management interlock.“ 

Now, the plan is to increase the number of species grown in the Serapium Forest to include a plantation to help the economy of the area too.

Other efforts to halt desertification include Africa's Great Green Wall project. When it is completed. There will be a natural vegetative barrio that stretches the entire width of Africa. The greenery will block desert winds and sand, as well as be a source of food and employment.

While treated sewage can be used to grow trees, it is not clean enough to use for crops. Increasing food production in these drought driven desert areas is vitally important. A new green tech company Seawater Greenhouses LTD has designed cooling greenhouses that uses seawater to grow food in the desert.

New innovative technology driven by climate change is restoring fertility to these ancient lands and making the desert bloom.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.