Cleaning up Lake Bizerte

by Peter Easton, Senior Advisor Water and Sustainability

12 September 2017 | Reading 3 mins.

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After decades of urban and industrial pollution, Lake Bizerte will have fresher waters again, with additional benefits.

Bizerte is the northern most city in Africa – further north than Malaga, Malta, Crete and Cyprus. The city, with a population of 143,000, rising to 400,000 in the nearby region, lies between the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Lake Bizerte to the south. The lake is in fact a tidal lake or lagoon, meaning that its waters are brackish, connected to the sea via a 7 km-long canal, which serves as the entrance to the city’s commercial port.

Over recent decades, the lake has become continuously more polluted through urban and industrial pollution, causing damage to the natural condition of the lake, its fisheries and creating risks to human health.

The Union for the Mediterranean has helped to promote and coordinate an integrated programme to clean and protect the lake and its catchment, which includes the surrounding drainage basin and Lake Ichkeul – a freshwater lake providing most of the inflow to Lake Bizerte.

The project aims to rehabilitate the environment and water quality of Lake Bizerte, through a clean-up and removal of pollution sources, and to improve conditions for aquatic life and living conditions for the surrounding populations. The results will also have a positive impact on the development of tourism and aquaculture.

A range of positive impacts are expected. There will be improved sanitary and environmental conditions for an estimated 400,000 inhabitants in urban and surrounding rural areas. There will be improved conditions for sustainable industrial production (state-owned and private companies) and a boost to local employment opportunities in the fields of sewage, waste management, fisheries and agriculture.

The project will focus on four priority areas of investment:

  1. Industrial pollution: address and manage industrial or atmospheric pollution of water and air in the steel, cement and oil sectors to be in compliance with Tunisian standards.
  2. Urban wastewater: extensive rehabilitation works will bring wastewater collection and treatment up to Tunisian standards.
  3. Solid waste: remediation of landfills, securing storage areas and creating treat- ment plants and transfer centres in rural areas.
  4. Coastal zone management: clean- ing and landscaping the lakeshore and extending fishing harbours.

The investment component will be complemented by specific decentralised cooperation actions between local authorities for the detailed conception of complementary work in the fields of environmental follow-up, governance, communication and awareness-raising.

This project is an excellent example of a coordinated multi-stakeholder approach to reversing the pollution impacts of decades of urbanization and industrialization in a sensitive environment.


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