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Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

Scientists Use Recycled Sewage Water to Grow 500-Acre Forest in the Middle of Egyptian Desert

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  1. > Desertification, also known as desert-creep or desert-spread, is a process that has caused much concern over the last decade—and it’s a major problem for the ancient land of Egypt, where 96% of the country’s landmass is desert.
    >
    > So why is it that—if you drove a car 10 miles west of the Suez Canal—you would see bountiful forests of eucalyptus, teak, and mahogany trees limned against the orange sand and blue sky of the Sahara?
    >
    > Serapium Forest is the most prosperous of Egypt’s 36 tracts of land that make up an ambitious program to combat desertification by creating sustainably managed commercial forests fed entirely by wastewater.
    >
    > The 500-mile forest is only a short distance from the populous Egyptian city of Ismailia, inhabited by 400,000 people who produce millions of tons of sewage and sewage water every year.
    >
    > Routed a dozen miles to the Serapium site, the sewage water arrives in massive microorganism-populated underground vats where oxygen is fed in to accelerate the bacterial purification process. A system of pipes then deposits the wastewater throughout the forest.
    >
    > Since human wastewater is still rich in nitrogen and phosphorus even after being treated, it is effectively a MiracleGro formula provided free of charge by Ismailia’s citizens. (Watch the encouraging video below.)
    > An Ambitious Effort
    >
    > Recent efforts by Egyptian scientists have produced plenty of research suggesting that the wastewater potential for afforestation in the country could turn 1.6 million acres of desert into commercial forests that are arable and economically viable.
    >
    > The federal effort, called the National Program for the Safe Use of Treated Sewage Water for Afforestation is going a long way towards achieving the country’s commendable ambitions voiced in the 1992 UN Rio conference on climate change—because so many trees can soak up hundreds of tons of CO2.
    >
    > The research was supported by Forest Finance, a German forest investment company that has already established near-natural forests in Panama and Vietnam to aid those countries in economic development, CO2 absorption, and wildlife conservation.
    >
    > Forest Finance wants to increase the number of species grown in Serapium by including a plantation on the site. That way, the biodiversity of the commercial forest would be able to support a greater array of life and species, and hopefully increase the profitability as well.
    > Green Walls
    >
    > Although desertification is sometimes thought of as the swallowing of lands adjacent to deserts, it is actually a process whereby land that was once fertile or semi-arable becomes desert as a result of things like unsustainable agricultural practices, or long-lasting drought.
    >
    >
    > Africa’s Great Green Wall project, a remarkable effort across more than 10 countries to build a giant patchwork wedge of vegetation to combat desertification in Africa’s Sahel region—the band of semi-arid yet arable land south of the great Sahara—swaps the word desertification for land degradation.
    >
    > Africa’s Great Green Wall is a success that is also currently being matched by the Chinese, whose “Green Great Wall,” is made in a similar way to Egypt’s.
    >
    > The African green wall has produced some staggeringly good figures along their stated goals of jobs created, carbon sequestered, land reclaimed, and food produced. It has established best practices for the combating of land degradation by ensuring that the “wall” is a mosaic of different families of plants and land use strategies, providing greater robustness and flexibility in the face of drought or fire.
    >
    > Although the Serapium Forest suffers from the precarious circumstances derived from lack of funding and political stability, it’s still growing—a 500-acre green wall to join the others in the world in fending off the sands of the world’s deserts from spreading.

  2. Water? You mean like out the toilet?

  3. It would be interesting to have a biologist do a follow up study on the wildlife this forest attracts and supports.

  4. In the US at least, water leaving a sewer treatment plant is usually much cleaner than the raw water entering the drinking water treatment plant. Municipalities could save considerable money using the treated effluent as a source for drinking water, except the average citizen is repulsed by the idea, regardless of possible tax savings.

  5. This article is garbage. It falsely claims that this is a “500-mile forest,” when according to the FAO the whole plantation is only 210 hectares. The writer has done no first-hand reporting, no interviews, no nothing.

    It’s nice that they are doing this, but there is nothing really ground-breaking here. Yes, if you provide a lot of water you can grows trees in the desert. This is nothing new. This is “forest” is a monoculture of eucalyptus trees which do not provide real wildlife habitat. It’s a good use of a certain type of wastewater.

    Since they are growing eucalyptus that will be used as a fast-growing source of firewood, this is not an effective form of carbon sequestration and can have no positive effect on climate change. The trees capture carbon, get harvested five years later and burned, and the carbon is right back in the atmosphere. This is more of an economically useful project than an environmental or ecological one.

  6. My local sewage processing plant has the slogan: “It’s too precious to use just once”. But I live where we get feet of rain every year.

  7. Here’s the [location of the “Serapium Forest”](https://www.google.com/maps/place/Serapium+Forest/@30.5666722,31.9853471,102260m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x4c05d910662d56db!8m2!3d30.4862906!4d32.2307614) on Google maps. It’s not nearly as impressive as the article makes it out to be; it would be better described as a tree farm and it’s certainly not in the “middle of the desert”.

  8. I love this so much. Innovation to improve the environment, plant new trees, create new habitat, etc.

  9. “Recycled Sewage Water” aka water

  10. What I would love for scientists to paint a good picture of is how our habits regarding our waste and even our burial practices break the natural cycle that would normal replenish topsoil.

  11. This reminds me of my old fraternity house in college. The septic tank was leaking and we didn’t really give two shits about it.

    The fun part was years before I loved there one of the brothers bought his girl at the time some tulip bulbs since those were her favorite flower. Well they broke up, she was pissed and threw the tulips in the field where the tank was.

    By the time I lived there every spring that field was full of tulips. Just beautiful. Even during droughts it was pretty lush over there with other flowers too like bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. We never mowed it so it was always pretty crazy.

    House is gone now though, demolished after we sold the land and built a new house.

    I always wondered why we didn’t use sewage to grow plants but I guess we do!

  12. Anyone interested in this type of restoration should look up Geoff Lawton. Absolute legend.

  13. A lot of places reuse the water after it comes out of the plant . Ever wonder why a golf course is watering during the day? Some use that water.

  14. >The 500-~~mile~~ **acre** forest is only a short distance from the populous Egyptian city of Ismailia.

    Typo. Article says acres later.

  15. I wonder how much of the desert can be reclaimed?

  16. Tertiary treated sewage has also shown great potential for use as a water/feed for hydroponic growth farms

  17. “And it smells like shit.”

  18. Defecation for desertification

  19. What a shitty fucking forest.

  20. This was from back in 2013… I’d love to know how it’s doing now.

  21. Human waste makes incredibly good fertilizer and is a by-product of any modern sewage and water treatment system.

    If you thought animal shit was good for crops, human shit is on another level.

  22. Oh cool! That’s almost 1% of what just got burnt in Australia!

  23. Finally re directing the shit in Egypt where its needed

  24. At a project I worked at in Dubai, United Arab Emirates I used treated sewage water for the landscaping. Before using it, was using municipal water and the plants were dying and many palm trees were scheduled for removal. Not long after switching the plants were growing like crazy and had to be trimmed back regularly, even the ones we thought was dead.

    It doesn’t really smell since it did have some treatment from the sewage treatment plant. Only thing was that the tanks would grow algae easily. Best not to use it where children might try and drink water from sprinklers.

  25. Does it smell like shit though?

  26. Maybe my government should do that instead of dumping raw sewage into the sea. Or you know invest in a sewage treatment plant instead of keeping aid money for themselves or spending it on useless rockets…just a thought

  27. Dark Helmet: [through the bullhorn] No you fool, we’re following orders, we were told to comb the desert, so we’re combing it! [puts down bullhorn] Find anything yet?!
    Soldier: Nothing yet, sir.
    Dark Helmet: How about you?!
    Soldier: Not a thing sir!
    [camera pans to two soldiers using a mini comb] Dark Helmet: What about you guys?!
    Soldier: We ain’t found shit!

    -Spaceballs

  28. That looks like a dope swim spot.

  29. There is no such thing as a desert,degraded or desertified land,if you give nature a helping hand millions of square kilometers forests could be restored.Remember these places are being abused for past 10000 years.

  30. with our shit combined, we can save this planet

  31. Ngl I know this was made from stuff that’s come out peoples arse but this is beautiful

  32. Why would we want to have a shitty forest in the middle of the desert

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