The biodiversity of the ponds and lagoons at Al Karaana is to be catalogued by a scientist from Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q).

The rehabilitation of Al Karaana Lagoons began in 2017, augmented by a package domestic wastewater treatment plant in the vicinity. Since then the area, which is approximately 60 km southwest of Doha, has become a haven for wildlife and is particularly rich in bird life.

Dr Kuei-Chiu Chen, Associate Professor of Biology at WCM-Q, will now lead a study documenting the many different species at the site and the numbers in which they are found.

Because Qatar is historically a dry, desert country with no standing fresh water, it will be fascinating to see the difference that Al Karaana Lagoons has made to the biodiversity of the local area.

We know that Qatar is on the migratory route for many species of birds and Al Karaana may well become a vital stopping-off point, allowing them to rest, drink and feed on their way to their destination.’

Al Karaana Lagoons
Dr Kuei-Chiu Chen with Ashghal employees, contractors and sub-contractors

Dr Chen will conduct the research with the help of students studying the pre-medical curriculum at WCM-Q, giving them valuable experience at contributing to a professional research project. The data they accumulate will then be compared to pre-2017 ecological studies at Al Karaana Lagoons, before the wastewater was treated.

Studies will be done during both day and night, and a drone will also be utilised to assess where the greatest concentrations of plants and wildlife are. The study will also feed into Qatar National Vision 2030 – which has environmental development as one of the its four central pillars – potentially providing evidence for the long-term protection and sustainability of the site.

Species which may be found at the treatment works include bee eaters, storks and even ospreys, as fish have been introduced to the lagoons.

Engineer Khalid Saif Al Khayareen, Drainage Networks Projects Department Manager at Ashghal Public Works Authority, said the treatment of wastewater and hence the creation of this remarkable habitat for birds, plants and fish – right in the heart of the desert – is a significant achievement and a source of pride for everyone who has worked on the project.

This collaborative study with WCM-Q will help us evaluate the success of the programme and is of genuine interest to everyone involved with the revitalisation of the lagoons. We hope they will continue to attract wildlife and be an example of environmental sustainability for many years to come.’

Al Karaana Lagoons

The environmental remediation of Al Karaana Lagoons began in 2017 and will be completed by the end of this year. Currently fresh, treated effluent water is being added at a rate of approximately one bathtub per second, enough to offset evaporation even during the height of summer. When finished, the three lagoons will have a total area of 730,000 square metres, providing a desert oasis for plants and wildlife.

For updates and more information about WCM-Q and their research projects, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu.