Muscat: An environmentally friendly process to treat and recycle wastewater in Oman has won an award from the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
The process involves a wetland system made up of locally sourced gravel, sand and reeds to treat wastewater through natural methods so it can be reused for irrigation.
Built on an area of 995 square meters in the premises of the Quriyat wastewater treatment plant, the system was designed for Omani climatic conditions, without any mechanical parts.
The treatment system was designed by Buthaina Al Wahaibi, Mahad Baawain, Dr. Alexandros Stefanakis, Dr. Tahereh Jafary, Dr. Mortaza Aghbashli, Dr. Meisam Tabatabei and Dr. Abdullah Al Mamun, for which they received the annual research award for 2021 in the category of best Published research directed by a young researcher (not holding a doctorate) in the sector of the environment and biological resources.
Dr Alexandros Stefanakis, who worked on the project and is employed as an assistant professor at the Technical University of Crete in Greece, explained the growing need to focus on increasingly environmentally sustainable solutions.
“It’s only now that we realize the scale of global environmental problems and their impact,” said Stefanakis, who is also a Climate Pact Ambassador for the European Commission. “For decades, if not centuries, economic growth has followed the so-called linear ‘take-make-consume-waste’ model, which is based on the continuous extraction of natural resources and the subsequent creation of products, and eventually waste.
“This process has resulted in environmental issues that we are all aware of, from climate change and global warming to local water and soil pollution,” he added. “However, we now know that natural resources are finite and will eventually run out if we continue this reckless extraction, while the international scientific community continues to warn (us) of the irreversible impact of our actions, if we do not react. not now. .
“It is the trigger and the motivation to adopt sustainable principles and practices and move to another model of economic growth: that of a circular economy, where treated water or solid waste is considered a new resource, and where green technologies are developed to minimize environmental impact. And that’s why nature-based solutions, like the one studied in this research project, perfectly achieve this goal.
The water treatment project in Quriyat was carried out for Haya Water, in collaboration with the Research Council Fund and Sultan Qaboos University. Considered a cost-effective solution that has environmental and economic benefits, the green wastewater treatment plant is a solution that can be used on a small or large scale and requires minimal operation and maintenance.
Until about two years ago, Stefanakis was employed in Oman, working as an engineer specializing in artificial wetlands, implementing green projects for sustainable waste management in the region. He is currently working on a host of other environmental projects around the world, including eight research studies in Africa, Europe and the United States.
He also oversees three wetland projects in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran. In Brazil, one of the largest systems is being built for the sustainable treatment of mine wastewater. In Lebanon, he is helping build another large-scale wetland system, while in Egypt, he has just completed a project to clean up a polluted river using natural solutions.
“If we continue to follow unsustainable growth patterns, the consequences will be devastating,” Stefanakis explained. “We can already observe an increase in global temperature, an increase in the frequency and intensity of catastrophic events and extreme weather events, and a decrease in ice cover in the Arctic. All these global issues are also expressed at national and local levels around the world. We can all understand the effects of these phenomena on society, our health and our ecosystems. Of course, we can imagine the major impact this will have on our economies.
“I believe that although many countries are doing a lot, we are not doing everything that is necessary,” he admitted. “Although there are many suggestions, initiatives and guidelines from international organizations, the rate of adoption of these practices is not very satisfactory. The climate crisis has now reached a point where we have no more time to waste. There is strong scientific evidence that this decade will be decisive in determining whether we will achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement.
“That means we should be transforming and decarbonizing our economies much faster than we are doing now,” he added.
“Of course, it’s not an easy process. But the future of our children depends on our actions today.