By Gary Thomas
Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have opened a pilot decentralised wastewater plant with integrated wood production in Mongolia. They have collaborated with their partners in Germany and Mongolia to address three critical issues facing Mongolia – deforestation, water scarcity and sanitation.
The pilot wastewater treatment plant with integrated wood production in Mongolian winter Photo: Dr. Manfred von Afferden/UFZ
The German Ministry of Education and Research has provided funds for the Integrated Water Resource Management in Central Asia: Model region Mongolia (MoMo) project. This project aims to find suitable water management solutions for the country. The Mongolian University of Technology in Darkhan has been put in charge of the pilot decentralized wastewater plant.
In the second phase of the MoMo project, the director of the MUST University, Prof. Dorlingsuren Lkhanag, and MoMo-project leader at UFZ, Prof. Dietrich Borchardt have commenced a research pilot plant. Along with government organizations, they aim to devise an integrated water resources management concept for the Kharaa basin in northern Mongolia. Deforestation has occurred due to continued grazing and logging, which has also impacted the willow stands.
The infrastructure for sanitation due to change in the Mongolian population pattern has faced difficulties. The existing systems are unreliable and pose a risk to human health and the environment. Pipes for drinking and wastewater infrastructure need to be laid more than 3.5 m below the surface due to the harsh Mongolian climate that may cause freezing. Treatments may require heating, which may not be economically feasible for the country.
For irrigating and producing willow trees, the research group proposes to pre-treat wastewater. Mongolia has large areas that can be used for treating wastewater from small settlements. The research considers groundwater and soil contamination, and water quality requirements and storage for sustainable irrigation.