Recycled Sewage Water To Grow Forest In Egyptian Desert
Irrigation feeds sewage water to the Separium Forest. Credit: Joerg Boethling
Environment Nature Sustainability

Egyptian Desert Transformed Into Forest With Recycled Sewage Water

Desertification is a great concern in Egypt because its landmass is 96% desert. However, an ambitious program to combat desertification is making sustainable, commercial forests with systems that feed the forest only wastewater. So far, the program has 36 tracts of land throughout Egypt, with Serapium Forest as the most prosperous.

The 500-mile Serapium forest has teak, eucalyptus, and mahogany trees. It’s a short distance from the crowded Egyptian city of Ismailia, inhabited by 400,000 people who produce a significant amount of sewage water every day.

Recycled Sewage Water To Grow Forest In Egyptian Desert
Local women traveling through the forest. Credit: Joerg Boethling

The sewage water arrives at the forest via massive microorganism-populated underground vats. Oxygen is fed into the system to accelerate the bacterial purification process. Finally, a network of pipes then spits out the wastewater throughout the forest. The human wastewater is comparable to a MiracleGro formula since it’s rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, except it’s free thanks to Ismailia’s residents.

Recycled Sewage Water To Grow Forest In Egyptian Desert
The water treatment plant in the city of Ismalia, from which the Separium Forest is fed. Credit: Joerg Boethling

Egyptian scientists have researched the wastewater potential for afforestation in the country. They discovered that it could turn 1.6 million acres of desert into commercial forests that are arable and economically practical. The National Program for the Safe Use of Treated Sewage Water for Afforestation is achieving the country’s commendable ambitions. The effort was first voiced in 1992 at the UN Rio conference on climate change.

Forest Finance, a German forest investment company, is a supporter of the research. The company has already established near-natural forests in Vietnam and Panama to aid the countries in CO2 absorption, wildlife conservation, and economic development. Forest Finance wants to include a plantation on the Serapium site to increase the number of species and biodiversity, which hopefully results in an enormous array of life and increased profits.

Recycled Sewage Water To Grow Forest In Egyptian Desert
A tree nursery in Separium, where baby seedlings grow before they take root in the desert sand. Credit: Joerg Boethling

Desertification is a process where land that was once semi-arable or fertile becomes desert due to unsustainable agricultural practices or long-lasting droughts. As the desert expands, people start to lose ground and vegetation. Some countries are taking action and bringing back biodiversity and crops, which had slowly died out when desertification took over.

Africa is taking action with their successfully large and healthy Great Green Wall project in the Sahel region. Over ten countries built the massive patchwork wedge of vegetation to combat desertification. The Chinese also made a wall similar to Egypt’s, called the Three-North Shelter Forest Program.

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