Reed Beds: Cleaning Waste Water in the Desert

Art, constructed wetland, photography, Richard Allenby-Pratt, United Arab Emirates, water conservationEarlier this year I decided to visit a strange looking waste management site in Um Al Quwain – one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates. From satellite imagery it looked like raw sewage was being dumped in the desert, just a couple of kilometres from Um Al Quwain’s precious mangrove estuary.

Access was my first problem, but after a couple of attempts I found a cross-dune route to the site and was surprised to find an extensive reed bed sewage treatment operation.

Not only was this quite impressive, but the bordering desert, being mainly fenced off (to all but the most persistent photographers) was alive with a multitude of wildlife in an evidently rich desert oasis ecosystem.

Sadly, the chain of sewage treatment lakes was bordered on the other side by domestic waste, and other, landfill.

So I found myself in a bizarre, contradictory landscape. What a sadly wasted opportunity to create a unique wildlife reserve!

Have a look for yourself at  25°30’25.28″N  55°37’1.06″E

Note from the editor: this photograph is part of a series called “Consumption” that seeks to document consumerism’s impact on the environment. From resource extraction and commodity production all the way down the supply chain to retail stores and waste processing facilities, Richard artfully examines what nature has come to mean in a world that depends on buying stuff.

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