(Less than) 50 Shades of Brown

Most likely, this morning some of us went to the bathroom, brushed our teeth, took a bath, and did our things in the toilet, maybe followed by washing the dishes that have been sitting on the sink since last night dinner. Little did we know, the water (or better we call it wastewater) that we used is flushed and drained to a collection pipe. In the case of EM-41 class, our wastewater is collected by sewer pipes in Dresden which has a total length of 1700 km with diameter of up to 2 meters.

These pipes are laying under the roads of Dresden and deliver our wastewater to a specific plant in Kaditz, an area northwest of Dresden. Occupying an area as large as 25 football fields, the plant was constructed in 1910 to treat the wastewater produced by Dresden’s population. Currently, everyday approximately 120.000 m3 of wastewater coming from 700.000 people is reaching the treatment plant. Since Dresden’s wastewater system applies a combined system, the incoming wastewater is collected together with rainwater and treated together in the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).

To give you some illustration about the smell that we inhaled that afternoon, here is a picture of raw wastewater which just arrived in the WWTP; a dark-brown water.

Pic 1

Dirty, hence the dark color. Full of organic materials, which could lead to oxygen depletion in the aquatic ecosystems.  Full of microorganisms, which some are harmful to humans, and of course smelly. And these are the shades of brownish colors of the same wastewater during the treatment processes:

More or less 24 hours later, we will receive this not-even-close-to brown water, which is the treated water from the WWTP.

Pic 4

Almost like clear water, it is still not safe for drinking, but is now safe to be discharged into receiving water bodies, in this case the famous Elbe River. With only 5 mg/l of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5), and 41 mg/l of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), NH4-N of 0,7 mg/l, N total of ±13 mg/l, and P Total of 1 mg/l, this water won’t be a harm to humans and neither to the environment once it is discharged into the river.

How could the wastewater be turned into clear water? The answer is because of several physical, biological, and chemical processes that were taking place in the plant. At first, the wastewater was treated with physical and mechanical treatment with bar screens and grit chamber to remove the trash and to remove sand subsequently from the wastewater. The water then underwent a sedimentation process in which its floating and settle-able solids sink to the bottom of the tank. Afterwards, the water was transported to aeration tanks. In these tanks, air bubbles were introduced to the water to be used by the microorganisms which “eat” the organics. The water then again settled in secondary sedimentation tanks, from which it can then be safely discharged to receiving water bodies.

The sludge coming from the primary and secondary sedimentation tanks was also treated in a series of sludge treatment units. Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to visit all the units, but we could see from afar the two giant egg-shaped anaerobic digestion tanks.

We had fun during the visit, especially since the weather was rather nice today. And since 81% of the energy used is produced by the plant (mainly from anaerobic sludge treatment units and small amount produced by solar systems), we proudly took a picture in between the solar panel systems.

Pic 5

by Vika Ekalestari (Indonesia)

special credit to Tamara Karp (CIPSEM) for the title idea 😉


An excursion to the BMUB and 3rd German Future Earth Summit in Berlin

After a month of studies in Dresden at CIPSEM, we (EM41) had an opportunity to go to Berlin for a visit to the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and attending the 3rd German Future Earth Summit. As scheduled, we left Dresden in the early morning of February 7th heading to Berlin by train. As soon as we arrived, on the way to our first stop, we encountered an old piece of the Berlin Wall and the line that used to divide the city. We got to the Ministry of Environment. Ms. Königsberg received us and told us about the history of the house, Berlin and The Wall. She showed us maps and old photos from that time. We did a tour of the building, through the patios and the standing Wall. We proceeded to the conference room where we met with Mr. Contius, head of the division “United Nations, Agenda 2030, Cooperation with Developing and Newly Industrialized Countries” at the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Mr. Contius talked to us about Germany’s Multilateral Work for Sustainable Development and its relevance on the national level. He explained that the main goal of his division involves narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, and help businesses go green. That way, there will be a change of course in order to achieve as many SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as possible by 2030. Germany mainly focuses on 3 issues: energy, agriculture and traffic; through the “5 Ps”: people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace. After having lunch at the Ministry, we went to the greywater recycling project station at Block 6. Mr. Nolde, manager of the project, explained the history and the overview of his project on how it operates. The facility is a decentralized recycling station, which according to Mr. Nolde is the best way for water treatment and reutilization in order to maximize energy efficiency. In the evening, Dr. Lindner gave us a quick tour around Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag, on the way to a wonderful dinner at Hopfingerbräu im Palais.

On the following 2 days, we joined the 3rd German Future Earth Summit – From Knowledge to Action at the Umweltforum. This summit provides a platform for researchers, scholars, NGOs, practitioners to discuss and figure out the challenges, especially in science, regarding the agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development. This year, the focus of the Summit was on KANs or Knowledge-Action Networks, in order to build bridges between the scientific community and other stakeholders and decision makers.


During the summit, we were divided into different roundtable discussions and sessions according to our professional and academic expertise and interests. This helped us understand, discuss and share ideas among all attendees. It was a great opportunity for us, EM41 Fellows, to meet many scholars and researchers, and build networks with them for future cooperation.


Overall, the Berlin Excursion gave us a great opportunity to understand Germany’s Environmental Policy, build networks and explore a vibrant city.

by Josefina Achaval-Torre (Argentina) & Chandara Yem (Cambodia)

13th February – 360° Panorama Fascination in Dresden

written by Melano Sirbiladze

On February 13th, 21 CIPSEM participants visited the 3600 panorama museum with German teacher Dr. Breuls. This day is a historic day for German people and especially for Dresden citizens. On 13th February 1945 British and United States Army Air forces dropped more than 3900 tons of bombs on the city. Dresden’s city center was severely destroyed.

The museum is very impressive and the atmosphere with emotional music takes you back in time. The amazing 3600 panoramic view, so-called “Dresden 1945” was created by the very famous artist – Yadegar Asisi. The artist dedicated his work to “people thinking about creativity and abysses of human nature, about grim logic and insanity of war in the world” (Yadegar Asisi).


In the museum, we “met” people from the past, people who experienced adversity during world war second. For example, we “met” Arno Wend, who was the youngest member of the Dresden City Parliament and unfortunately, was forced to go to Hohnstein concentration camp because of the Nazis. We also saw Jenny Schaffer’s profile. Jenny was an active member of Dresden Semper Opera House. She was Jewish and because of her origin, Henny Schaffer along with her husband was deported to extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were murdered.

We also listened to the stories of the people who experienced bombing during 13-15 February. Ordinary Dresden citizens talked about the unbelievable days they had in 1945. And one might think that these people have only sad, tragic memories but surprisingly in every person’s talk, you will find hope to rebuilt and renew the city.

Overall, for me and I think for every CIPSEM participant, 13th February was full of history, emotions, people, tragedy, and hope. And how surprising it may sound, I still managed to find the beauty in these tragic stories. The Dresden Beauty is that love continues even after death and the impact of that trauma brought people closer together due to the love they shared for the city. In other words, Dresden citizens had carried and still carry the amazing feeling of hope and the feeling to start over. So, as our guide told us, we saw not only the tragedy of Dresden, but people’s strong faith for a better future.


Excursion to Waste Management and Recycling Facilities


In Saxony waste management involves many stakeholders (including private, public and PPP`s) and has a very interesting social aim. Led by Dr. Dietmar Lohmann, we had two days of excursions (January 31st and February 1st) to many waste management facilities.

It was very interesting to know more about the German management model, in which consumers and producers are economically responsible for waste management. The inclusion of handicapped people in waste business was nice and surprising, becoming definitely a role model to be analyzed and implemented in developing countries.

We had the opportunity to see new technologies for bio-waste treatment, like the quick fermentation chambers at the composting facility. Although it is important to mention that some other processes at this facility, like compost maturation and marketing, surely can be improved.

In developing countries may be difficult to find waste to energy projects, but here in Germany we had the chance to visit a landfill-gas utilization project, in which biogas was transformed into energy for the grid.

Also we were impressed by the willingness of Germans for buying recycled products, as we saw the success of PAKA, a cardboard recycling company with more than 100 years of history. We have to highlight the way they market their products and find specific and lucrative niches.

These excursions were a wonderful experience for us, but also a great chance to have nice moments with our fellows.

by Gabriela de Jesús Fernández Tay (Cuba) & Eduardo Esteves (Ecuador)


Excursion to the Botanical Garden of TU Dresden

As a part of the programme of the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services, our diverse group from 21 countries (mainly from the tropics and subtropical areas) had the experience to visit an important place for tourists, scientists and environmentalists alike: The Botanical Garden of TU Dresden. With an extension of three hectares, the garden is home of around 10,000 species of native and exotic plants, that had been well preserved and managed by specialized gardeners, volunteers and dedicated scientists since 1822. Today the scientific head of the Botanical Garden is Dr. Barbara Ditsch, a woman with great knowledge and passion regarding plant conservation and management and to whom we are deeply grateful for sharing her knowledge and warm hospitality.

During this pleasant excursion, we could find a variety of native and endangered plants included in the red list of Saxony as Arnica montana; medicinal and toxic herbs as Colchium autumnale, tropical and subtropical aquatic, carnivorous or ornamental plants as Victoria cruziana, Nepenthes sp. and orchids respectively, as well as perennial plants and deciduous trees from Europe, temperate Asia, North America and the Mediterranean region. Also our excursion was warmed up with the visit into three wonderful and well managed greenhouses showing the tropical and subtropical regions, and even the humid weather of the Amazon or the warm and dry weather of Madagascar desert.

New concepts of conservation and plant management have been provided to our pool of knowledge, where we could learn that The Botanical Garden of TU Dresden is working with the aim to integrate several innovative proposals towards an important topic in this decade: “Ecosystem services”. In which it is relevant for the ex-situ plant conservation and for the local animal diversity (e.g. providing habitat for 120 bees that have been recorded here and in its surroundings), but also providing a harmonic space for tourism, education and research (estimated 100,000 guests/year), highlighting the multiple roles of botanical gardens within urban areas. This experience had contributed both in our cultural enrichment and also in our professional knowledge, in which the majority of us will be very glad to bring this innovative and multidisciplinary idea of conservation for our countries.


by Vanessa Wätzold Ospina (Colombia)


The international birthday

It’s ordinarady to be born in a place rather in a country unless your mother delivered precisely on an international boundary. That would be incredible indeed. However, no lesser is to celebrate your born day in different country with the people born in different country which is something equally special. Ms. Eunice from Ghana enthusiastically invited all the representatives from different country in her party. Food was delicious of course. Spicy: just like the participants. Cakes, balloons and beers were more part of the celebration. Music was really the catalyst. Dancing on beats of music which you don’t understand but can feel it was even more seductive. Songs from East European, Asian, Latin American and more so African. Grooves were dominated mainly by african, obviously. Azerbaijan and Brazil really tried though. It was fun. The international birthday. Perhaps, more birthdays and celebration to come. So, no less we shall enjoy as one family in this diverse world.

by Mr. Sonam Tashi (Bhutan)


Excursion to the Ecological Station Neunzehnhain and Reservoir Management

by Yulia Mariska (EM40)

On 15th – 16th June 2017, the participants of the 40th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management had the opportunity to visit the Ecological Station Neunzehnhain and learn more about reservoir management.  Located about 80 km south-west of Dresden in the “Ore Mountains”. First day, the group transferred to dam Neunzehnhain II guided by the Dam Administration Saxony.  The area of the dam are not populated and surrounded by almost 80% of forests as drinking water protection. The main reason is to keep the good water quality because the dam’s primary purpose is for  drinking water supply of the nearby located city of Chemnitz with a storage capacity of about 3 million cubic meters.

The second day started with a lecture about freshwater organism and quality indicators by Ms. Beesk (TU Dresden); in this session, the participants were equipped with microscopes to see some of the micro-organisms in the water sample and then continued to have get some explanation about water quality indicators in the reservoir Neunzehnhain II. The next session was guided by Dr. Paul (TU Dresden), he explained about the water quality and quantity management in reservoirs and how it can be used as a bio-manipulation tool to manage fish stocks.

After having lunch the excursion proceeded to dam Saidebach guided again by Dr. Paul for another session about land use in the catchment area, water and sediment treatment, catchment protection and climate change issues. The dam Saidebach like the dam Neunzehnhain II also functions as a drinking water reservoir with a capacity of 22 million cubic meters.