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Pooling efforts for cleaner water

A high-tech waste water treatment plant in Nicosia, funded with a €68 million loan from the CEB, is meeting the growing needs of both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

Mia Milia plant Nicosia
©UNDP
Water scarcity has always been a serious problem for Cyprus. The island has a dry climate and its underground waters are largely insufficient, so the country depends almost entirely on rainfall for its water resources.

It is not unusual for Cyprus to experience two or three consecutive dry years but, in recent years, climate change has led to more frequent droughts. This, coupled with increased demand from tourism, is worsening the water scarcity problem on the island.

Decades of water initiatives

Since 1970, the CEB has continuously provided financing to the country to better manage its water resources. 

CEB funds have been used to build dams, construct irrigation networks, bring drinking water to communities or build new sewerage systems.

The government’s water policy focuses on making the most of non-conventional water resources, such as recycled water. Since joining the European Union, Cyprus has also implemented the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, necessitating substantial investment in wastewater infrastructure.

Cyprus currently has five active projects with CEB, two supporting the creation of infrastructure for waste treatment in the municipalities of Larnaca and Limassol. In the past decade alone the CEB has invested €320 million in the island’s water infrastructure. 

Bi-communal wastewater treatment plants

Water scarcity knows no borders and the communities on both sides of the divide suffer consequences. 

Faced with a common challenge, the Greek and Turkish communities of Nicosia have worked together over the years to manage water resources. 

When a joint water recycling plant was built in the village of Mia Milia, located north of the Green Line, in the north-east of Nicosia, the project was hailed as an example of bi-communal cooperation.

As the city grew, however, the Mia Milia/Haspolat wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) began experiencing severe capacity overload and was unable to meet treatment requirements or environmental constraints. The outdated processing technology and overloading led to heavy environmental burden for the neighbouring areas and unpleasant odours for nearby Nicosia residents.

With the forecasted growth in the respective catchment area , the construction and commissioning of a new WWTP at Mia Milia became a priority. The CEB financed the new plant with a €68 million loan to the Sewerage Board of Nicosia.

The project had a number of key objectives:

  • expand and upgrade the sewerage and drainage facilities in the Greater Nicosia area to improve the quality of life of the population
  • safeguard economic development for one of Cyprus’s main commercial and tourism centres
  • protect the environment as a major asset of the tourism industry.

Nicosia plant
©UNDP
Savvas Hadjineokleous, General Manager of the Sewerage Board of Nicosia, says that both communities faced challenges during the project, yet, "from the inception idea and the first Principal Agreement in 2006, through the design, tendering and construction phases… the two communities still work together, in cooperation with the contractor-operator, to ensure the proper operation of the plant."

Mrs Tiziana Zennaro, Programme Manager from UNDP, the implementing partner on the project says, "By joining resources and technical expertise, the Mia Milia Wastewater Treatment Plant now represents one of the largest and most modern wastewater treatment plants in Europe. More importantly though, it is an excellent example of how the collective efforts of both communities have helped to achieve a more sustainable future in the greater Nicosia area." 

A state-of-the-art solution

The new WWTP protects the shared environment and natural resources of both communities, and provides both communities with a modern, high-tech plant with the capacity to accommodate future needs.

The plant is equipped with state-of-the-art wastewater treatment technology that uses membrane bioreactors. In membrane technology physical, chemical and organic processes serve to remove contaminants from wastewater and make it safe for reuse in agriculture. The Nicosia plant is now the second largest WWTP in Europe to use membrane technology.

The Nicosia plant has a capacity to produce ten million cubic metres of treated water a year, which is used to irrigate agricultural land. It also produces dry bio-solids, which can be used as a natural fertiliser. It is fitted with an anaerobic sludge digester and a combined heat and power (CHP) unit to produce green electricity from biogas. The plant also helps check pollution levels in the River Pedieos.

The current project continues the Bank’s support to provide basic sewer and drainage facilities in priority areas of the Nicosia municipality. During the first phase, a new sewage treatment plant was constructed in Vathia Gonia; the treatment capacity of the existing Anthoupolis plant was tripled; eight pumping stations were constructed, and more than 800 lateral sewers and force mains were installed.

Mia Milia waste water plant in numbers

  • 270,000

    people from both Greek and Turkish communities served by the plant

  • 30,000 m3

    wastewater treated in the plant per day

  • 10 million m3

    recycled water can be used for irrigation per year

  • 500

    hectares could be irrigated every year with recycled water from the plant

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