Climate and landscape
Despite its small size, Tunisia has a very varied landscape. The north is dominated by a Mediterranean, fertile hilly landscape with pine and pine forests and the nature reserve of Lac Ichkeul, which offers refuge for many species of birds. Citrus fruits, vegetables and wine grow on the Cap Bon peninsula in the north-east of the country, and the vast steppes in the Sahel region in the middle of the country are used to grow grain and olives. The desert with the large salt lake Chott El Djerid makes up around a third of the area of Tunisia and extends in the south along the Algerian and Libyan borders. The highest point is the mountain Jebel Echchambi with 1544m, the lowest is in the salt lake Chott el Gharsa with -17m.
In the north of the country around the capital Tunis, the climate is Mediterranean, with humid but relatively mild winters and hot summers. The average temperatures are between 10 °C in winter and 26 °C in summer. In some years snow falls on the high altitudes on the Algerian border. In the steppe region of the Sahel, the climate is semi-arid, in the desert the temperatures rise in summer to up to 50 °C and in winter ground frost is possible at night. The hot desert wind called chhili often causes high temperatures in the north of the country in summer. Precipitation falls mainly in the winter months, while in summer it is almost continuously dry across the country.
According to areacodesexplorer, Tunisia has a relatively small amount of natural resources. In the south of the country, in the area around Gafsa and Metlaoui, phosphate is mined, and there are also lead, iron ore and zinc deposits. Tunisia also has oil and gas reserves. The information about the oil reserves vary widely. Phosphate mining is one of the most important economic factors in the country. Production has slumped since 2011 and came to a standstill due to frequent strikes.
Tunisia faces a number of ecological problems, mainly due to climate change and rising emissions and waste products due to the strong economic growth of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Greenhouse gas emissions have risen continuously over the past forty years, which, in addition to the increasing motorization of the population, is primarily due to the growth of the chemical industry. In 2002 Tunisia ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
For some years now, the government has been focusing more on sustainable energy generation. Wind power is generated on Cap Bon and on the north coast, solar energy is an option, especially in the south of the country. In 2008 the government launched a solar plan that was also funded by Germany. This is now to be implemented. The share of renewable energies is to be increased from 3% (2019) to 30% in 2030. In 2019, a solar park supported by KfW was opened near the city of Tozeur. Many Tunisians use solar panels to heat water. A project to use atomic energy with the support of France, which was promoted during the time of former President Ben Ali, is still relevant, at least on paper. The temporarily planned extraction of shale gas met with massive public protest. One of the biggest polluters are the state phosphate and chemical plants in the Gafsa, Gabes and Sfax regions. However, environmental issues are not a priority in Tunisian politics.
Biodiversity in Tunisia is endangered not least because of increasing urbanization and land utilization. Although the country has ratified a number of international conventions, they are not systematically observed. The climate crisis is also having a negative impact on diversity.
Due to the increasing shortage of drinking water, Tunisia commissioned a seawater desalination plant on Djerba in 2018 with German financial support.
In 2019, single-use plastic bags were partially banned.
Water shortages and desertification are a particular problem in the south of the country. GIZ supports various projects in Tunisia that deal, among other things, with climate change, the adaptation of agriculture to the new framework conditions, and efficient water management.
Waste and sewage disposal is a problem, both in terms of household waste and hazardous waste. Since the political upheaval in 2011, garbage collection has been functioning in large parts of the country only sporadically. In June 2017, the so-called environmental police started their work, which is supposed to monitor the legally compliant waste disposal and can distribute severe penalties in the event of violations. In addition, garbage containers were set up, initially only in urban areas. Outside of the big cities there is no functioning garbage disposal, so that waste and especially hazardous waste is not disposed of correctly. In some cities, garbage is temporarily stored in open air landfills within urban areas, often igniting and releasing toxins in summer. Industrial wastewater is not always adequately treated and discharged unfiltered into the groundwater or the sea. The Groupe Chimique Tunisien, based in the southern Tunisian coastal town of Gabes, is particularly strong herein criticism. She is accused of not adequately protecting employees and the environment from harmful substances.
The Tunisian Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development has launched large-scale awareness campaigns on the subject of environmental protection since the 1990’s, which are aimed primarily at young Tunisians. Often, however, the campaigns focused more on symbols than on specific actions.
Around a third of GDP is generated in agriculture. Organic farming still plays only a minor role in Tunisia, despite increasing production. Most of the products grown are intended for export, although it is difficult for smaller companies in particular to raise the cost of European organic certification.