Egyptian case study site: Maryut Lake

This is a large superficial water body located in a semi-arid area. Lake Maryut extends for 80 km along the North West coast of Alexandria and 30 km south and is divided into a number of basins by highways and railroads. It is a closed lake, not connected with the sea. The average depth is 0.55 meter and does not exceed 1.2 meter. The level of water surface is -3 compared to ASL.

The ecological conditions, especially in the main basin of the Lake, were adversely affected by increased discharge of domestic sewage, industrial and agricultural wastewater, so that the water quality in the Lake deteriorated considerably. Furthermore, the total area of the lake has decreased from about 200 km2 at the beginning of the 20th century to about 63 km2 in the 1990s, a decrease of about 68% of its original area. This was due to the large areas of the Lake which were either reclaimed for cultivation or filled and used for urban purposes. Such deteriorating conditions have led to severe deterioration in environmental conditions and affected consequently fauna and flora of the Lake. The Lake, from this perspective, used to be a major source of food production, fish and birds, and offered thousands of jobs to fishermen.

The current environmental conditions in Lake Maryut are generally unsuitable for fish production and farming, where some areas of the Lake were used as fish farms. Moreover, the quality of fish is unsuitable for human consumption. The annual fish production from the Lake, which was about 7000 tons annually during the early 1970s, representing about 75% of all fish catch in Alexandria area, has decreased to about 2680 tons during the early 1990s. Moreover, there is evidence that the high pollution levels that the Lake suffers from, has led to high levels of metals in the fish, which is still being fished and sold in the market causing considerable source of health hazards. During the same period, the number of fishing boats and fishermen has decreased by about one-third, with the remaining fishermen having much reduced income. Moreover, the importance of the Lake for birds has diminished greatly over the past two to three decades, due to habitat loss, ecological changes and increased disturbance and hunting pressure.

Main impacted compartments are: health effects on animals and humans; adverse effects on aquatic fauna and flora; negative impacts on food production; adverse effects on employment and income generation; other secondary socio-cultural and economic impacts. The prevailing problems in the site are: deteriorating water quality due to discharging of industrial, agricoltural and some municipal waste water into the Lake; declining fish production due to deteriorating water quality; and aesthetic problems due to bad smell and odor emetting from the water. The actions taken so far involve only the treatment of discharged industrial and municipal water.

Key stakeholders identified are:

  • Ministry of irrigation and public works, dumping drainage water into the Lake and controlling the level of water in the Lake;

  • Ministry of agriculture, discharging irrigation waste water into the Lake;

  • Ministry of reconstruction, constructing a number of new roads subdividing the Lake;

  • Ministry of the environment;

  • Alexandria Governorate (Local Authorities), filling in some areas to aquire more land;

  • the local population of Alexandria, represented by NGOs;

  • Sewerage General Authority, dumping sewage into the Lake and discharging municipal waste water into the Lake;

  • the nearby industrial firms, either discharging industrial waste water into the Lake or using the Lake water for cooling purposes;

  • fishermen and fish traders,  who use to sell the fish caught from the Lake and lose source of income and their jobs;

  • scientific community, represented by the researchers of the University of Alexandria conducting a number of research works on the Lake;

  • surface water police Authorities, controlling the water body.



Detailed presentation of the site by Partner 10.

Report of the Meeting organised at the study site in April 2006.


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