The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors has approved US$18 million (euros 16.2 million) in additional financing to complete an environmentally safe wastewater disposal system considered critical for the protection of sensitive marine ecosystems off the coast of Tunisia. Part of the Northern Tunis Wastewater Project, the new financing is for the construction of a 6km submarine outfall, an underwater pipeline that will transport treated wastewater away from the shore for improved dispersal and dilution.
Tunisia’s coastal and marine ecosystems are under threat from sometimes untreated wastewater discharges and pollution from agricultural drainage. Reducing nutrient discharges into the Gulf of Tunis is a national priority, and the government has developed a national program for improved management of wastewater with Tunisia’s sanitation utility, the Office National de l’Assainissement (ONAS).
“The Bank has supported the development of ONAS since its creation in 1974, and the safer discharge of wastewater will greatly help wider, transnational efforts to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean, as well as improving the environment for Tunisians through improved waste management control on the ground in Tunisia itself,” said Eileen Murray, World Bank Country Manager for Tunisia.
Tunisia is relatively well served in terms of water management, with developed utility companies and systems. Almost all its urban populations—and 90% of its rural populations—have access to potable drinking water, and 85% of its urban population has access to improved sanitation as well. But only a limited number of submarine outfalls have been built in Tunisia to date, making the safe disposal of effluents difficult.
“While the additional financing will help complete the complete the transfer system for the safer disposal of treated wastewater, the project will also foster its reuse in agriculture and other sectors. Using treated wastewater as a non-conventional source of water for agriculture will help Tunisia cope with the increasing challenge of water scarcity,” said Richard Abdulnour, World Bank Sanitation and Water Specialist and Task Team Leader for the project.
The sanitation sector in Tunisia has come under increasing strain in recent years. Delayed investments and low tariff increases have constrained the ability of ONAS to modernize its services and keep up with increasing urban demand. Along with the construction of critical infrastructure, the additional financing will support institutional capacity building, environmental and water quality monitoring systems, and the design of future projects for the ongoing national project of improving wastewater management.