EBRD joins environmental clean-up of Lake Bizerte

By Nibal Zgheib

EBRD joins environmental clean-up of Lake Bizerte

Fort of Bizerte; About 400,000 people live in the adjacent Bizerte region alone. Improvement in the water quality of the lake will have a positive impact on the development of tourism and aquaculture

EBRD to finance rehabilitation of wastewater treatment with €20 million loan

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is joining international efforts to clean up Tunisia’s Lake Bizerte with a €20 million loan and technical assistance to support the expansion and rehabilitation of the sewerage network of the Bizerte region and the rehabilitation of three wastewater treatment plants located near the lake.

The EBRD’s investment is part of an integrated environmental programme aimed at de-polluting Lake Bizerte and reducing sources of pollution through investments in wastewater, solid waste and industrial effluents. This programme is labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean and is part of the European Union's Horizon 2020 Initiative, which aims to de-pollute the Mediterranean by the year 2020. The European Investment Bank is providing a €40 million sovereign loan to the programme while the European Union Neighbourhood Investment Facility is contributing a €15 million grant for both capital expenditure and technical cooperation. The Global Environment Facility is also contributing US$ 2 million to help clean up Lake Bizerte and the Mediterranean Sea.

Lake Bizerte is connected to the Mediterranean Sea by a 7 km channel and located in close proximity to natural resources both on land and in the sea. About 400,000 people live in the adjacent Bizerte region alone. Improvement in the water quality of the lake will also have a positive impact on the development of tourism and aquaculture. Owing to the potential benefits for the wider region, cleaning up the lake is a priority for the Tunisian authorities and has won international support.

The expansion and rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment plants and sewerage network will be implemented by Office National de l’Assainissement (ONAS), the state-owned sanitation utility and
recipient of the EBRD loan. Additional technical cooperation funds will be provided by the Global Environment Facility to support policy dialogue on ONAS’s financial sustainability as well as a monitoring programme for the lake. 

EBRD and ONAS representatives signed the loan agreement today in Tunis, in the presence of Yassine Ben Brahim, Minister of evelopment, Investment and International Cooperation and Nejib Derouiche, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development.

Hildegard Gacek, EBRD Managing Director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, said: “This is our first public sector loan in Tunisia and we are very proud to contribute, together with our partners, to a cleaner environment in Tunisia and the Mediterranean. The improvements we are financing will benefit not only the environment but also the local population.”

Tunisia became a member of the EBRD in 2012 and to date the Bank has invested more than €250 million across 20 projects in various sectors of the economy. Through the EBRD’s Small Business Support, the Bank has also initiated more than 150 technical assistance capacity-building projects that directly benefit Tunisian small and medium-sized enterprises.

The borrower, ONAS, is the national sanitation utility created in 1974 to manage wastewater in Tunisia reporting to the Ministry of Environment and sustainable development. It provides sewerage services to over 6.5 million people in 165 municipalities.