JEDDAH — The nearly 75 km coast of Jeddah, known as the Corniche, is a highly polluted waterfront where untreated sewage has affected local marine life. Experts say the discharged wastewater has caused severe eutrophication — excessive plant growth caused by an increase in nutrients in the waterway — and a resulting ecological imbalance in which fish and other creatures have begun to die due to the lack of available oxygen, Al-Madinah Arabic daily reported recently.
As algae and bacteria feed off of the nitrates, phosphates and organic matter found in human waste, the organisms grow and multiply rapidly causing overpopulation which means not only are fish and other organisms in the aquatic environment at risk but people too as much of the fish consumed in Jeddah is caught from the polluted waterway. Untreated wastewater contains high levels of harmful bacteria, including the e-coli virus, which can cause diarrhea, kidney failure, and in some cases death.
When contacted for a comment, the Jeddah Municipality said it had compiled a list of legal and illegal drains that are spewing raw sewage into the Red Sea. It also said 309 drains have been plugged recently with the municipality’s local branches issuing warnings to the owners of the violating sites. As for the environmental and health hazards caused by the discharged sewage, Abdulhameed Tayib, an environmental expert, said it is a major environmental crime that authorities must stop.
“Wastewater contains harmful organic matter that has a severe effect on the composition of the water. Due to this pollution the oxygen in the seawater begins to decrease. Also, this polluted water prevents the sun’s rays from reaching the water. This affects some of the fish that live under the sunlight,” he said while adding that a decrease in fish may even have an adverse effect on fishermen’s ability to make a living.
“We’ve haven’t heard of any solutions for properly disposing of agricultural and industrial waste water, which gets mixed with sewage water that flows into the sea and disturbs the marine environmental system,” he added.
Sami Muhammad Ali Al-Ghamdi, another environmental expert, blamed sewage treatment plants for discharging surplus untreated water directly into the Red Sea and also called for stricter monitoring of companies, many of which he accused of illegally tapping into the city’s storm and ground water networks to dispose of contaminated water.
The official spokesman of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), Hussein Al-Qahtani, said residents can call the toll-free 988 number to file reports of natural or marine disasters. Without elaborating, he also said the Kingdom has a plan to counter pollution in the Red Sea.