Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Huge sewage lake threatens flood-hit Jeddah

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: Weeks after a devastating flash flood, residents of Jeddah fear that further heavy rainfall could bring a huge, brimming reservoir of raw sewage cascading onto Saudi Arabia's Red Sea capital. Until the November 25 flood submerged homes and roads, killing at least 120 people, every day a line of tanker trucks made their way from Jeddah, a city of 2.6 million with almost no municipal sewerage system, to Musk Lake in the hills 12 kilometres (seven miles) to the east to dump fetid loads of human waste.

Last month's deadly flood showed what could happen. Ninety millimetres (3.5 inches) of heavy rain falling on non-absorbent desert soils turned into what some residents called a tsunami-like wave that rolled into Jeddah, overwhelming its limited storm drainage system. Spillways constructed long ago were already overbuilt with housing, exacerbating the disaster.

Now, every day, Abdullah Saad keeps one eye on the cloudy sky over his home in the Samer district just east of the city, where he lives with his wife and four children. "Samer is just 12 kilometres from the lake, and if it rains heavily we will leave the neighborhood to protect ourselves from the sewage," he said.

"We have seen the death and destruction of nearby neighbourhoods and we are afraid of rain, not to mention the putrid water." The reservoir -- ironically named by locals after the perfume ingredient -- has posed a threat to the city for 20 years, said Ali Ishdi, a professor of ecology at Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz University, itself badly damaged by last month's floods….

The Medina Road in Jeddah, shot by Ammar shaker, Wikimedia Commons

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