Keppel 'greens' desert in Qatar

The Doha North Sewage Treatment Works is the largest integrated water reuse and sludge treatment facility in Qatar.
The Doha North Sewage Treatment Works is the largest integrated water reuse and sludge treatment facility in Qatar. PHOTO: KEPPEL CORPORATION

Migratory birds have started arriving at a remarkable green sanctuary that is taking shape in the most unlikely of locations - the middle of a sun-scorched desert in Qatar.

The startling sight of greenery amid vast desert sands is part of a project by Keppel Seghers Engineering Singapore, builder of the Doha North Sewage Treatment Works project.

The project in the town of Umm Salal Mohammed - about 20km north of Doha - is a 3.6 billion Qatari riyal (S$1.4 billion) wastewater treatment, water reuse and sludge treatment facility, the first and largest of its kind in Qatar and the Middle East. It was built by Keppel Seghers, a wholly-owned unit of the infrastructure business of Singapore-listed Keppel Corporation, which was awarded the contract by Ashghal, the Public Works Authority in Qatar, in 2007.

But in a country where temperatures typically soar above 40 deg C with little rain, the project's surrounding green "buffer zone" of more than 8.3 sq km - envisioned as the biggest man-made park in the Gulf Cooperation Council member states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates - is a rare sight.

The green landscaped zone, set for completion this year, will have two ponds and 50 picnic areas. About 95,000 trees are also being planted to create a "nature sanctuary", according to a recent Keppel in-house newsletter.

"Even as the buffer zone is about half done, we are already welcoming our first visitors. We see many migratory birds perched on the trees or near the lagoons," Mr Rajendran Balasubramanian, senior project manager at Doha North, said in the newsletter.

"Hopefully , when the entire buffer zone is completed, we will see families enjoying a respite from the hustle and bustle of Doha city."

The "greening" of the desert is well under way - and not just in terms of the physical environment.

The Doha North facility, spanning 4km by 4km, is able to treat up to 245,000 cubic m of wastewater a day, reclaiming water for non-potable purposes. This means the precious drinking water supply is freed up for the community. The high-grade reclaimed water is transferred into Doha's irrigation network for the park, while the processed sludge is used as organic fertiliser or in landscaping projects.

The Public Parks Department of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in Qatar, for instance, has approved the use of the dried pellets as soil conditioner for ongoing government projects related to tree planting and gardens.

A substantial part of the Doha North project was completed just last year. Last July, Keppel Seghers handed over the solids stream and sludge treatment facilities in the project to Ashghal. Following the handover, Keppel Infrastructure Services, the infrastructure services arm and a wholly-owned unit of Keppel Infrastructure, also started on its 10-year operations and maintenance phase of the contract for the solids stream and sludge treatment facilities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Keppel 'greens' desert in Qatar'. Print Edition | Subscribe