Project title: Constructed Wetland for Nutrient Reductions in the Waters of Tirana River
Duration: 1 November 2009 – 31 August 2010
IEP, in partnership with Ekolëvizja and Tirana Municipality has started and is managing the “Constructed Wetland for Nutrient Reductions in the Waters of Tirana River in Albania” project. The project reduced the nutrients which flew in Tirana River through two wastewater canals, by building a wetland which is capturing, degrading, and processing the excessive nutrients; the capture and processing of such nutrients is done by the aquatic plants and bacteria of the constructed wetland, the wetland will also serve as a place where excess carbon is stored in plants. The construction of the wetland has also attracted aquatic fauna, thus contributing the increase of the biodiversity.
The constructed wetland system consists of native plantings in three basins, and two reconstructed channels designed to slow water flows. The basins slow down the water flowing through the system, providing an opportunity for the vegetation to filter out pollutants, and for the aquatic organisms to thrive.
This is the first project on nutrient reduction in Albania, a pilot project that will be disseminated in order to replicate it in many polluted rivers and streams in Albania.
The project aims at:
- reduction of the organic pollution in the lower course of Tirana River through the construction of a wetland that will serve as a biofilter for the polluted waters of Tirana River;
- creation of a wetland that will increase the biodiversity in Tirana River, attract different wetland species, and serve as a recreational place for inhabitants of the area and environmentalists;
- implementation for the first time in Albania of a nutrient and pollution reduction project, which will serve as a pilot project for other similar project in other polluted streams and rivers, or even used by small municipalities to treat their waste waters.
- dissemination and awareness raising on the nutrient reduction need and its benefits, and on practices that decrease the nutrients flow to the rivers and watercourses.
November 2009-February 2010:
The first phase of the project involved planning of the constructed wetland, water analysis, and the first environmental assessment of the area where the constructed wetland was planned.
March 2010-May 2010:
The second phase of the project consisted in building the constructed wetland at Bregu i Lumit, a location near the northern border of Tirana, at the banks of Tirana River.
June 2010-September 2010:
During the third phase, Ekolevizja and IEP organized a series of dissemination and awareness raising activities, in order to promote and replicate the project in Albania and the region. A conference was be held on the 30th of June 2010, where different actors and stakeholders in the in the field of nutrient reduction and wetlands took part. The conclusions and the benefits of this project were presented to the participants with the aim of promoting the project in other countries besides Albania.
14-15 September 2010
A Peer-to-peer exchange meeting was held in Tirana International Hotel in Tirana from the 14th to 15th of September 2010 in the framework of the Living Water Exchange Program. Representatives from three neighboring countries with Albania participated (Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia), together with members from the Albanian Government, UNDP, REC, GEF, Regional Environmental Agencies, and NGOs. There were series of presentations and discussions on the water pollution and nutrients reduction challenge, methods used in nutrient reduction and the situation on nutrient reduction in Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia. The “Constructed Wetland for Nutrients Reduction in the Waters of Tirana River” project was presented as a method to decrease the load of nutrients which goes into rivers through sewage and grey water, and the replication of the method in the neighboring countries with Albania was emphasized.
The second day of the meeting was followed by a field trip to the constructed wetland site at Tirana River where the participants had the chance to closely observe the functioning of the wetland, ask questions, observe the area, the biodiversity at the wetland, the growth of the cattails by comparing what they saw with the pictures in the brochures distributed during the meeting and see the grave pollution of Tirana River. The participants showed a lot of interest in the wetland, and on how it retains the excessive nutrients.
The after-trip was followed by discussions on the replication of the project in Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia and on questions and comments about the constructed wetland and the pollution in the Tirana River.
The conclusions from the meeting were:
- Raising the awareness on the pollution in the Tirana River
- Improvement of the constructed wetland at the pilot site
- Further monitoring of the wetland and further analysis of the water
- Replication of the project in other sites in Albania, or the neighboring countries
- Possible training sessions on how to build a constructed wetland
A series of meetings have been organized with the local community that lives around the river, where the project was presented, information on the project and benefits arising from the project were conveyed and discussed. The meetings with the local community were carried out in order to disseminate and get the support from the public on the constructed wetland and the nutrient reduction importance for the environment and the society.
The outputs of the project according to the objectives set are:
- Creation of a wetland to reduce the flow of nutrients in the Tirana River through a series of 3 basins planted with aquatic plants which are still growing and processing the organic matter found in the water;
- Biodiversity has been increased in the banks of the river—the creation of the wetland has already attracted frogs and some aquatic birds even one month after its construction;
- Several students of the Natural Science Faculty have visited the wetland site and have expressed interest in visiting again to see the progress of the wetland;
- 3 informal meeting have been held with the local communities living near the river, where the importance or reducing nutrients, sewage and trash flow in Tirana River has been discussed. The community seems to understand the importance of the issue, but is more driven by the economic sense as the people near the river have seized the riverbanks illegally and sell the land informally to newcomers, thus any future development of the riverbank as a buffer zone seems to scare them. The other thing to point out is the because of being an informal area, the Municipality of Tirana is not offering any garbage collection system to the area;
- 4 articles have been written in national newspapers on the project, and periodically Ekolevizja has published articles on the progress of the project in its biweekely newspaper “Ekolevizja” which is distributed to all the environmental NGOs in Albania, and the project pictures and information have been also distributed via internet;
- A conference on the project and the issue of Tirana River pollution was organized on the 30th of June, where different stakeholders from the Municipality of Tirana, NGOs, media, private companies and academia. The project, issues concerning it, nutrient and pollution reduction in Tirana River were discussed.There were also discussions on the importance of constructed wetlands as a low cost method to lower the nutrients and as a way to comply with the Water and Fish Directive of the EU.
Project leader: Mr. Edvin Pacara
Partners: Ekolëvizja, Tirana Municipality
Funding: Living Water Exchange Program, GETF on behalf of GEF/UNDP
Project publications and other documents:
- First report of environmental assessment in Tirana River (Place Bregu Lumit) – March 2010
- Second report of environmental assessment in Tirana River (Place Bregu Lumit) – August 2010
- Leaflet (in Albanian) introducing the project and the constructed wetland (the leaflet is being distributed to NGOs and citizens of Tirana. The leaflet is available from the IEP office)
- Brochure (in Albanian) introducing the project results (available from IEP office)
- Site visit and project review report by Living Water Exchange Project (November 2010)
Visual materials: photos of the wetland site