Muscat: Oman’s Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation has awarded a prize for a green process for treating and recycling wastewater.
This involves a wetland system that is made up of gravel and sand from local sources. Reeds are used to treat wastewater using natural methods so that it can then be reused for irrigation.
The system was built on an area of 995 square meters in the premises for the Quriyat wastewater treatment plant. It was designed for Omani climate conditions and no mechanical parts.
Buthaina Al wahaibi, Mahad Baiin, Dr Alexandros Stephanakis, Dr Tahereh jafary, Dr Mortaza AGhbashli and Dr Abdullah Al Mamun designed the treatment system. They were awarded the Annual Research Award in 2021 in the category Best Published Research Led By a Young Researcher (nonPhD holder), in the Environment and Biological Resources Sector.
Dr. Alexandros Stefanakis was involved in the project and is currently employed as an assistant professor at Technical University of Crete, Greece. He explained that there is a growing need to be more environmentally sustainable solutions.
Stefanakis, who is also a Climate Pact Ambassador to the European Commission, stated that it is only now that we are beginning to see the extent of the global environmental issues and their impact. For decades or even centuries economic growth followed the so-called linear model of take-make-consume-waste, which is based on the continuous extraction of natural resources and the subsequent creation of products, and eventually waste.
This led to many environmental issues that we are all well aware of, including global warming and climate change, as well as soil and water pollution. We know that natural resources are finite and will eventually be depleted if this continues. The international scientific community continues to warn us about the irreversible consequences of our actions if we don’t act now.
This is what motivates us to adopt sustainable practices and principles and to move to a different model for economic growth. It is the circular economy. Here, treated water or solid waste can be viewed as a source of new resources and green technologies are used to minimize the environmental impact. This is why nature-based solutions such as the one in this research project perfectly achieve this goal.
Haya Water was responsible for the Quriyat water treatment project. This was in collaboration with The Research Council Fund (Sultan Qaboos University) and Haya Water. The green wastewater treatment plant is an economical solution that also has economic and environmental benefits. It requires minimal operation and maintenance and can be used at small or large scales.
Stefanakis was an engineer in Oman for two years. He implemented green projects to manage waste in the region and constructed wetlands. He is currently involved in a number of other environmental projects, including eight research studies in Africa, Europe, and the USA.
He is also responsible for three wetlands projects, one in Qatar, one in Iran and one in Saudi Arabia. One of the largest systems in Brazil is currently under construction to treat wastewater from mines. He is currently involved in the construction of a new wetland system in Lebanon. In Egypt, he has just completed a project that involved the cleanup and treatment of a polluted river with natural solutions.
Stefanakis stated that unsustainable growth models will have devastating consequences if we continue to pursue them. Already, we can see an increase in global temperature, an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather phenomena and catastrophic events, as well as a decrease in Arctic ice. These global issues are also being expressed at the local and national levels around the globe. These phenomena have a profound impact on society, health, and the ecosystems that support it. This will have a major impact on our economies, as we can see.
He admitted that although many countries are doing a lot of things, we aren’t doing everything that is needed. Although there are many international organizations offering suggestions, guidelines, and initiatives, their adoption rate is not high enough. We have no time to waste because of the climate crisis. Strong scientific evidence supports the idea that this decade will be decisive in determining whether we reach the Paris Agreement targets.
This means that we should decarbonise and transform our economies faster than we do right now, he said.
This is not an easy task. However, our actions today will determine the future of our children.