What is Desertification?
Desertification is the process by which fertile land turns into desert – usually due to drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture. It is also known as a desert-spread and has become a major cause of concern for countries like Egypt, where only 4% of the country’s landmass is suitable for agriculture. The arid land and high temperatures that accompany a desert, make it very difficult to cultivate plants that bring food to the table. It was imperative to combat this, and Egypt discovered that the solution lay in waste water.
10 miles west of the Suez Canal, driving down the road, one can see an artificially created ecological marvel – a beautifully terraformed forest of eucalyptus, teak and mahogany trees lined up against the sand and sky of Sahara.
The Forest – Creation and Curation
This green strip is called Serapium Forest, and is the most bountiful of Egypt’s 36 tracts of land. It aims to create a commercial forest managed sustainably and fed entirely by the country’s wastewater. The forest lies against the Sahara for about 500 miles and is only a short distance from the populous Egyptian city of Ismailia. Ismailia is inhabited by 400,000 people who produce millions of tons of sewage and sewage water every year, thus producing waste water for managing the forest. The sewage water is routed to the Serapium site and arrives in massive Cisterns underground populated with microorganisms. Here, additional oxygen is provided to aid the bacterial purification process. A network of strategically positioned pipes then deposits the wastewater throughout the forest. Since human wastewater is rich in Nitrogen and Phosphorus even after being treated, it brings accelerated growth to the plants and trees in Serapium.
Research and Recognition
Recently, egyptian scientists have produced plenty of research suggesting that this process of afforestation through waste water could economically turn 1.6 million acres of desert land into commercial forests that are suitable for growing crops. This initiative by the Government is truly visionary and has implemented the country’s ambitions that were earlier voiced in the 1992 UN Conference on Climate Change in Rio. Egypt had expressed a concern over their rising CO2 levels in the air and wanted to address it through Afforestation. The research was supported by Forest Finance, a German company that caters to forestry investment. Samples of their work can also be found in Panama and Vietnam where they have achieved Terraforming, to aid those countries in absorbing Carbon emissions and wildlife conservation. Forest Finance aims at increasing the number of plant species that can be grown at Serapium. This would result in a large-scale biodiversity that could give life to numerous species and become a potential home for them, thereby increasing the profitability of the area.
The Great Green Wall Project by Africa, is a remarkable effort that spans across 10 countries, with the purpose of building a patchwork of vegetation in wedges, to combat desertification in the Sahel region. This band of semi-arid yet fertile land, can be found South of Sahara. It is a successful initiative that is being replicated by the Chinese, who have given it the name Green Great Wall. The African green wall has produced some great numbers in their goals of creating jobs, sequestering Carbon, reclaiming land and producing food. It has established one of the best and most economically viable practices for fighting land degradation by ensuring that the wall is a mosaic of different species of flora that provide robustness and flexibility in the eventuality of drought or fire.
Although the Serapium Forest suffers setbacks caused due to lack of funding and political instability, it’s still growing – a green space spanning 500 acres. The project has allowed Egypt to join the ranks of other countries in the world that have proved their worth in preventing deserts from spreading across the Globe.