Constructed wetlands are among a suite of technologies that are being tested by GEF International Waters projects around the world to decrease the release of nutrients into fresh and marine water systems. Constructed wetlands provide an economically and environmentally sound alternative to traditional wastewater treatment facilities. Operation and maintenance costs are low and provide additional benefits such as the creation of wildlife habitats for wetland species.
The success of a constructed wetland project in Egypt’s Lake Manzala has created global interest in the potential of this technology as a low-cost and low-maintenance alternative for treating wastewater. At just one-quarter of the cost of conventional methods, the pilot wetland has removed 61 percent of the biological oxygen demand, 80 percent of suspended solids, 15 percent of total phosphorous, 51 percent total nitrogen, and 97 percent of total coli form bacteria. Pollution of Lake Manzala has seriously threatened the health of local people and the viability of economic activities such as fisheries, raising livestock, and farming.
Lake Manzala is an internationally registered Important Bird Area and pollution threatens the lake’s entire ecosystem. Large areas in the northwest of the lake have been turned into fish farms, while much of the southern part has been divided into large plots and drained, in preparation for its conversion to agricultural use. In the past 70 years the area of natural wetlands has shrunk from 700,000 to 200,000 acres. The demonstration at Lake Manzala has created international visibility for constructed wetlands and it now provides Egypt with the opportunity to become a recognized leader in the development of this innovative technology.