The “sweet smelling” odor of the waste water treatment plant …

… an excursion to Stadtentwässerung Dresden.

CIPSEM course participants usually look forward to excursions because they provide more visual and practical learning which goes beyond the theoretical knowledge transfer that happens in the seminar room. However, prior to departure for this excursion to the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), EM-42 participants had mixed feelings as they feared stench from the plant while also excitedly anticipating the adventure of seeing the WWTP function in real time.

It was one of the beautiful days in Dresden with the sun shining brightly and a warm weather. Some participants dressed up in their least favorite clothes while some took “stench mitigation weapons” like tangerine to protect against the anticipated “sweet smelling” odor of the WWTP. On arrival at Stadtentwässerung Dresden, Mr. Sebastian, Public Relations Officer at the facility, highlighted some of the basic rules of the facility like no touching of barriers, no eating and drinking, wash hands at exit, etc. Additionally, it was learnt that this WWTP began its operation in 1910 and sits on 23 hectares of land. More interestingly, sewers used in the last century, dating back to 1888 were on display and are clearly different with open sewer systems whereas the 1900s had closed sewer systems, perhaps this could be described as evolution of the sewers! Interesting points to note, the plant was automated since 100 years ago and the distance of the sewerage is about 1800 km. The WWTP collects about 160000m3 of wastewater per day in addition to rain water because it is a combined system.

Anaerobic digesters sighted in Stadtentwässerung Dresden, WWTP (photo by Ms. Haili Zhou)

The first step of the facility was shown, that is Neustadter Kanal, where the waste water flows in from the sewerage system of Dresden city. The next step, which is the mechanical treatment involved screening large objects like plastics, tissue towels, etc. in a series rack. At this point, the intensity of the stench was so strong that participants made “eew” sounds, many adopted the weapon of stench mitigation approach, while some covered their nose with one hand and at the same time, took pictures with the other (there was no giving up!). But then, the faeces should not be accused here because as revealed, it is the fats that stink the most! It was really interesting to see the screening bars working and being fully automated, no workers were seen. Furthermore, the channel where dense material such as sand or broken glass settles are removed through suction to prevent wear and tear of mechanical parts of the WWTP and a series of water distribution pumps of varying capacities were also sighted. After that was the primary sedimentation tanks where the suspended materials are removed using gravity. The denser sediments sink while the lighter ones like oils floats on the water. Also, the sludge at bottom of the sedimentation tanks and the floating scum are scraped and pumped into the anaerobic digesters for secondary wastewater treatment.

The next phase of the excursion involved learning about the biological treatment of wastewater through the activated sludge process. The reactors are the first step and here the participants met the Very Important Persons (VIPs) of this process who are also the most hardworking entities. They are called microorganisms! These nice bugs (mostly bacteria) were kept aerated with sufficient oxygen needed to breakdown organic matter (i.e. ammonia) in wastewater to nitrates. This aerobic process called nitrification produces nitrates rich water that could pollute water bodies if discharged without removal of the excess nitrates. Following this step was the denitrification process in which nitrates are reduced to gaseous nitrogen by facultative anaerobes like fungi in anoxic conditions.

From the biological treatment (both aerobic and anaerobic), the treated water is circulated to aeration tanks and then to the clarifier tanks. Remarkably, anaerobic digesters were sighted at a distance in the facility where sludge is channeled for biogas production which feeds into electricity generators. It was very impressive to learn that Stadtentwässerung Dresden generates 80% of its energy demand from renewable resources. Specifically, about 18000 MWh was said to be from the digestion towers. At the final clarifiers, the treated water is discharged into the Elbe river at a rate of 120000 m3 per day where discharging pipe is fitted with turbine that generates about 680 MWh of electricity. The highpoint of the day was the sighting of solar panels in the facility that generates about 160 MWh annually. At this point, participants totally forgot about the oozing stench of fresh wastewater and it was all about different postures for pictures – interessant!

The benefits of a WWTP cannot be overemphasized because, hygiene is very important to every citizen as well as; water resources protection and flood protection. Moreover, discharging untreated waste water into urban lakes or rivers would have detrimental effects, not only on the environment but also on the living organisms. Amidst the fears of odor from the WWTP, the participants gained practical knowledge that could be applied in their home countries. Hence, it was mission accomplished!

The entire EM42-fellows were grateful for the opportunity to visit a WWTP and this appreciation goes to Mr. Sebastian (Stadtentwässerung Dresden), Prof. Dr. P. Krebs (Institute for Urban Water Management, TU-Dresden) Mr. Roman Kiesshauer and all CIPSEM staff team, UNEP, UNESCO & BMU for all the support granted for a successful excursion to the treatment plant. The “sweet smelling odor” was not so bad after all. In fact, it was worth it!

The excursion guide, Mr. Sebastian (left), Mr. Roman Kiesshauer (back) with EM42-Participants at the Stadtentwässerung Dresden WWTP (photo by Ms. Sreymoch Bun)

by Ms. Iquo Offiong (Nigeria)


We are part of the problem: An excursion journey to waste management facilities

Often, we don’t think about our daily consumption and how much waste we generate nor where or how it will go. As long it’s “NIMBY” meaning Not In My Back Yard. As long as it’s out of our sight, we don’t think it’s a problem or at least not our problem. Unless there’s no waste collectors, then it’ll be a problem. According to the Global Waste Management Conference (2017), we produce approximately 2.12 billion tons of waste each year globally. Have you ever thought of what people do with this waste and where it will go to? What about your waste at your home country?

Based on our recent visits to four waste collection, sorting and recycling facilities in Dresden, it was eye-opening and brought up a realization of the ugly truth. I could tell you that it’s not always a pleasant story of how your waste might go or where it might end up? If you’re lucky, your government takes good care of these issues for you by creating effective approaches and efficient waste management systems. One thing that stood out and we find amazing is the fact that by law, no waste that enters a landfill is not treated. This regulation gives so much benefits to the environment, social well-being and economy, saved the cost from reducing the emission of C02 to the atmosphere and other environmental and social impacts that would result from unsustainable waste management practices.

After the field trip, we have realized the ugly truth. The truth that shall spread out to each individual in the world, especially policymakers and households in developing countries. The realization of how much waste we generate, how much resources and energy is needed and/or used to produce these products, energy, and resources to sort and treat those products when it becomes waste. Waste management operations here in Germany are so advanced and well managed compared to most developing countries. Some facilities may run down a little bit and may not be at their perfect performance and may need to do some renovations, but they do manage to run the system smoothly. I was day-dreaming to see how good it would be to bring these facilities and systems, including all the technologies and equipment to my country. Personally, I feel very guilty of seeing our daily use products laying in the waste collection facilities and its life cycle. Not to mention the danger of chemicals and hazardous waste.

Biologic-mechanic waste treatment plant

Generally, Germany has strong regulations, law enforcement and implementations regarding waste management systems (waste collection, sorting, treatment, and recycling system). This may be related to the fact that Germany is part of the European Union, therefore, additional rules are needed to oblige to meet the EU standard. I noticed that most cities in Germany, the municipalities managing their own waste rather than depending on private companies. Moreover, there is active public participation from the local government, local people, the church, and other institutions. Despite having strict regulations on waste management, Germany has the available advanced technologies, financial resources, strong commitments, and human resources to make all this possible.

In contrast, everything seems to fail and far from success in the way we manage our waste in developing countries, although there are well-structured regulations and guidelines regarding waste management. It’s hard to pin exactly where or what went wrong. Many people may argue that waste management systems in developing countries failed mainly because of corruption, poverty, weak governance, education, lack of political will, lack of financial support, lack of human resources, or lack of access to advanced technologies. But personally, I think we are lacking of local people initiatives, participation and rightfulness perspective on waste. Waste to us is trash, we don’t see the value of waste nor the benefits of well managed and well treated waste.

An example from recent news in Cambodia that could illustrate how one person (lack of long-term thinking) could dangerously impact public health and the surrounding environment. On 31st January 2019 in Sihanoukville province, Cambodia, the Minister of commerce made a big scene of burning 25 tons of imported white garlic from China that contained high chemical substances (Disulfoton) which is used for insecticide in agriculture. The burning of these illegal toxic products took place at an open-air landfill in Sihanoukville surrounded by many people watching and taking pictures. We are talking about a Ministerial position that is undertaking this action, someone that holds big power, someone that actually could make a change. The purpose of this act of burning those imported chemicals white garlic is to protect public health, but I guess they didn’t think about the impact of burning these products with a normal temperate in an open-air at a dump site. Imagine how much chemical gas was generated and polluted from this unstandardized burning in an open space? What is the social and environmental impact on the nearby community?

To conclude, we (human) have over exploited our natural resources so much by trying to provide products, services, and technologies to meet our lifestyle and demands. We have come closer to the point where any move we make could lead to a point where there’s no return. Our style of living and choices of consumption are the problems. We need to rethink and reassess our taste of styles, our daily choices before we purchase by considering not only the price tag but where they came from, what value did it add to your life, how will it go after a certain period of time. Shall we blame the growing population, the need to meet our basic daily requirement, societies that desire for better lifestyles, innovations that make lives easier? You may not know the exact answer of all these questions, but it’s a good start to become responsible consumers or learn to adapt products life cycle thinking in taking part for our environmental solutions through practicing environmentally friendly behaviors such as support and use of organic products, reuse, recycling, living the minimal lifestyle and think of the products life cycle before purchasing it.

We also would like to show our gratitude and sincere thanks to Dr. rer. nat. Dietmar Lohman and the CIPSEM team for their hard work to make these field trip studies possible and to make sure we maximize our learning opportunity and time here in Dresden. Thank you.

by Ms. Sreymoch Bun (Cambodia) & Ms. Haili Zhou (China)

Welcome to the participants of the EM42!

According to Douglas Adams’ ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, 42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything. As we all are aware, these are challenging times for our planet in terms of sustainable development. Fortunately, today the 42nd (!) UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries has started at TU Dresden. We do not exaggerate when we say that looking at the inquisitive and motivated faces of the newly arrived 21 (coincidentally = 42/2) environmental experts makes us more than confident, that they will find answers – perhaps not to the Life, The Universe, and Everything – but at least to the question of how we can make further progress in sustainable development. 💚🌍💙

Though a sudden and unexpected snowpocalypse caused some adventurous arrival days with plenty canceled, delayed and rescheduled flights, nearly all the participants made it in time to the opening ceremony taking place in the festive hall of the TU Dresden rectorate. After inspiring and motivating speeches, the much appreciated musical entertainment by the string quartet of the Dresden Philharmonic orchestra, and the cheerful reception with lots of chatter and laughter, we are now looking forward to the next six months with the EM42 participants from Armenia, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Vietnam!

(Photos: T. Karp)

My Fulbright – Humphrey Fellowship Experience; building on the CIPSEM Success Story

As the late former US Vice President and Senator Hubert H. Humphrey said, “Never give in and never give up,” I was challenged and at the same time motivated when I learned about this prestigious Fulbright fellowship program. Likewise, I can still recall how motivated I was then in 2016 when I first learned about the UNEP/UNESCO/BMU-sponsored professional development program at the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies in Environmental Management (CIPSEM) at Technische Universität Dresden, Germany. My CIPSEM success story in 2016 including the unwavering support I received from Dr. Anna Görner, Dr. André Lindner and team was the stepping stone on which this Fulbright-Humphrey Fellowship success was built from.

Mr. Isaac Hokonya (right) with his fellows of the 39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management, visiting the German Environment Agency

The Fulbright-Humphrey exchange program was a great opportunity for me to develop my professional skills and experience in the USA. Following the fellowship application announcement by the Fulbright Commission in Harare, I immediately applied. I went through the competitive and rigorous in-country interviews, TOEFL exams and the candidate review process, and after waiting for close to a year I was selected. And the rest is history.

Like the CIPSEM Fellowship Program, the Humphrey Fellowship Program is well-planned and organized, and every effort is made to make each of the Fellows feel special from day one. The pre-departure orientation, welcome meeting at the airport, and on-campus orientation with the Humphrey Program staff and Friendship Partners helped us settle down and acclimate to our new “home” in Ithaca. The numerous field and recreational visits and dinner parties we attended are a true testimony of the hospitality extended to us by our US hosts. One of my goals prior to my departure was to learn about and experience American culture and I am happy to say that I am already immersed in it. I am amazed by how friendly the people are, with a rich cultural diversity, exemplified with some of the best business and cuisine cultures on the planet. I am much impressed with how such rich cultural diversity has given rise to the convergence of ideas and innovations that have continued to drive American society for many years.

Being a professional development program, the Humphrey Program gives Fellows the opportunity to build their program plans and hone their leadership skills through a series of seminars, academic courses, professional visits and volunteer activities. Like the CIPSEM experience, we have acquired practical skills that benefit us as professionals, helping us to engage with communities and people back home. A famous English proverb says, “make hay while the sun shines,” and as Humphrey Fellows we are privileged to have this great opportunity to develop our leadership and job skills for the benefit of our home governments and beneficiary communities. Such is an opportunity that every fellow should be proud of – for me, it is the true honor of being a Humphrey Fellow.

Isaac Hokonya web
by Mr. Isaac Hokonya, Zimbabwe

SC 76: Excursion to the City of Chemnitz – A symbol of Renewable Energy Innovations and Energy Efficiency

By Enoch Bessah (Ghana)

The international short course of Renewable Energy Sources and Energy Efficiency [SC76], has been an exciting and insightful experience at CIPSEM for the 21 participants selected from 19 countries across five of the seven continents in the world. The first week was for familiarizing with the course content, Dresden, Germany and among participants. Through our various presentations (country report) and socialisation we shared about our culture and knowledge as well as resources for capacity building through one-on-one chats and lectures. After two weeks of lectures and field visits to German Environment Agency (UBA) at Dessau and German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ) at Leipzig, it was an exciting moment to prepare early Monday morning to visit the Gold Municipality award winning city of Chemnitz. We were welcome at the City of Chemnitz Environment Agency by Dr. Thomas Scharbrodt, Head of the Environmental Authority in the city. As with other places we visited, the reception was “water, fruit drinks, coffee and tea” available on the table to energize us (keep us awake) throughout the presentations. I enjoyed this part of our excursion because it was an adaptation strategy to the weather by keeping the mouth busy and body warm.
The first presentation on energy transition in the City of Chemnitz was given by Ms. Carina Kühnel from their Environmental Authority. The energy and climate protection policy of the city is guided by three principles: environmental sustainability, social compatibility and economic efficiency and supply security. Chemnitz has a detailed integrated climate protection programme defined by the city council. Energy and climate change can be said to be intertwined. Solving the energy problem is addressing climate change according to my understanding of the climate protection programmes undertaken by the City of Chemnitz and the results achieved so far in their energy transition. The partners with various public and private institutions and organizations to implement defined programs. City of Chemnitz has exceeded the SEKo* 2020 target of 30% renewable electricity in the regional mix by 22% this year. The programmes of the city are worth emulating to tackle the global energy and climate problems at the municipal level.
The second presentation was on innovative heating solution at municipal kindergarten by Mr. Andreas Braumann. The concept of this innovation was to recover waste heat from data centre servers and use it at the municipal kindergarten in the City of Chemnitz. The first period of the implementation was 2011/2012, however, that of the kindergarten was on October 12, 2013. Recovered waste heat from servers is to be used in heating of buildings, domestic hot water and hot water systems. During the period of operation till November 15, 2013, the servers consumed 4.3 MWh of power and produced 10 MWh of heat. It is worth mentioning that useful heat from heating water during the same period was 2.85 MWh. Therefore, the waste recovery innovation from servers is the green way of increasing heat in buildings without direct consumption from electricity or other primary sources of energy. The Director of CIPSEM, Dr. Anna Goerner also made a presentation about solar construction work at FASA AG. Buildings are constructed with the architecture dimensions of solarthermal heating installations. This is another innovation to promote renewables in room heating. There are urban buildings with this design in the City of Chemnitz which we visited after the presentations.
IMG_6662After lunch, we visited three sites in the City of Chemnitz to see what was presented earlier at the Environment Agency. Our first stop was at the Solarthermal settlement developed by FASA AG. The solar systems are installed at an angle for maximum irradiation. Some of the buildings were still under construction which gave us an opportunity to see what is being done as presented in class. The completed solar residence (Solardomizil) and urban houses (Stadthäuser) were already occupied. This is an indication of the level of commitment of citizens to the energy transition plan. Although, Germany has not yet achieved national target in energy but there has been improvement towards the climate actions plan fulfilment. The second stop was at the battery storage system (eins) in the city of Chemnitz. The battery storage system has a rated capacity of 16 MWh. The response frequency of the battery system to changes on the grid is in split seconds. The battery in the system helps to prevent “blackout”, thus guaranteeing reliable power supply from the grid.  Our last site visit was to the municipal waste water treatment plant.
chThe plant incorporates energy efficiency in its operations as it recovers energy from the sludge through biogas generation. Waste water treatment is energy demanding. However, this plant has two of 36000 m3 tanks for biological treatment to generate biogas within 30 days. Electricity produced from the biogas generation covers two-thirds of the electricity demand in the facility. One thing that intrigued me at the waste water treatment plant was the information about the collection of rainwater from the city at the plant. This system although was not elaborated in the visit because it was not a focus, showed me, one practical and proven measure to mitigate urban flood in developing countries.

Our excursion to the city of Chemnitz enlightened us on energy transition at the municipal level which was aligned to the National energy targets and climate action plans. Our since appreciations goes to the CIPSEM team (lead on the trip: Dr. Anna Görner and Ms. Tamara Karp) for successfully organising this visit.

The 75th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries – Sustainable Cities is officially done!

On Friday, November 2nd, twenty participants of the Sustainable Cities course – including managers and decision-makers of 19 different countries – gathered together one last time at the Closing Ceremony of the 75th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries – Sustainable Cities.
During their stay in Germany, participants have gained state-of-the-art expertise as well as environmental communication and mediation skills to be able to contribute to the sustainable development and management of urban communities in their respective countries.
The ceremony ended the 1-month course with words of encouragement and appreciation from Anna Görner (CIPSEM Course Director), Clemens Helbach (BMU representative), and Prof. Bernhard Müller (Executive Director of the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development). Also, student representatives from Sudan and Brazil shared some final thoughts on the course, their whole experience during their stay in Germany, as well as some lessons to take back home. A refined selection of classical music, performed by a quartet of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, delighted the participants.
The CIPSEM team wishes to congratulate once again all participants on their successful participation and for all the hard work and positive thinking! We hope you have arrived back home safely and we look forward to keeping in touch with all of you.
“From now on, we are all responsible to give back what we got, by changing our reality, by exchanging knowledge, by leading initiatives, by keeping networking with each other and with our host institution here in Germany, and by being the change we aspired to see. […]”

– Ms Wala Bashari, Sudan
“Scientists say that we are made of atoms, but a little bird told me that we are made of stories (quoting Eduardo Galeano) […] So, bear this in mind and let us go back to our home countries to be authors and writers of the social changes we all seek.”

– Mr Artur Monteiro, Brazil


Text and photos by Mariana Vidal

only Jeju …

What comes to your mind when you think of places with exceptional beauty, outstanding natural and cultural heritage values? Wonders of the World! Or maybe a UNESCO World Heritage Site! There is a place (the one & only) which has multiple recognition under international designations of UNESCO and Ramsar Convention for Wetlands, and also a Wonder of World.

This outstanding place is Jeji Island, a part of South Korea with an area of 1,849 km2. The island achieved the triple crown of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve (2002), World Natural Heritage (2007) and Global Geopark (2010), and dotted with various Ramsar wetlands. Also, the island has numerous volcanic formations representing unique biogeography and its history.

Fortunately, I got an opportunity to visit the island and participate in a workshop ‘Fostering Global Citizenship for Sustainable Heritage Conservation’ jointly organised by UNITAR CIFAL Jeju and UNESCO APCEIU in October, 2018. The workshop apprised the participants with the importance of engaging local communities as well as global citizens in conservation of heritage sites, concepts of sustainable tourism at World Heritage Sites, and UNITAR-Developed City-Share Methodology. The USP of the workshop was individual presentation of participants from Asia-Pacific countries including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Cook Islands, Timor-Leste and Philippines. I presented on ‘Landscape Governance Approach and UNESCO World Heritage to address multi-functionality and diversity of Kailash Sacred Landscape’. Also as a cherry on the cake, the organizers planned a day trip to Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, Geomun Oreum and Seogwipo Olle Market, besides class-room sessions. I will always be grateful to the organizers J for this fun-filled trip and excellent workshop.

Sharing experiences, chit-chat on dining table and visiting the magnificent landscapes of Jeju island are definitely the moments to cherish and learning to share.

by Mr. Dhruv Verma (EM-41 alumnus, India)