A controversial hydraulic project initiated by chance carries water out of the heart of the desert to supply both mouth and irrigation water for most of Libya’s population. The present Civil War is meaning a setback for its development.
During the oil prospections carried out in southern Libya in 1953, what appeared instead was water: masses of underground “fossil” water that belong to a massive aquifer, now known as the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System.
At this Applied Technical English blog we want to give a short glimpse on this massive development, a not very well-known project. A life resource such as water which can change a poor country, in the opinion of many; or the exploitation of a non-renewable resource, for others, the Great Man-Made Project is at any rate an ambitious idea: moving water to where people lives instead of moving people to where the water is.
The former concept, common enough in regions with average water resources, sounds extraordinary in a country with 90 per cent of its territory occupied by desert, and a remaining ten per cent being an arid steppe by the coast, where most of the population lives. It sounds even more extraordinary considering that this scarce resource comes from deep into the desert. Anyway, the project was the dream of a leader such as Muammar Gaddafi, so the means to fulfil the end were justified without public discussion.
The so-called Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System is a “fossil” aquifer, in the sense that it was produced thousands of years ago, when the Nubian land was no desert, and cannot be replenished due to the almost absolute lack of rainfall at its basin. The consequences of this fact is that this project is expected to last only for 60 to 100 years before it dries up. This Applied Technical English blog has learnt that the target is to irrigate some 155,000 hectares and provide mouth water implementing a network of up to 3,000 kilometres of pipelines, fed by 1,300 wells.
However, the project came out of the offices and began in 1984, being its first of five phases inaugurated in 1991, feeding the Adjabiya reservoir. The second phase was ready by 1996, reaching as far as the capital city of Libya, Tripoli. In 2007 the project got to Gharyan, a hinterland town of the former.
There was no more relevant milestone before the Libyan Civil War began in 2014. As results of this conflict, unfortunately ongoing today, not only the project was stopped but some of the infrastructure was damaged, remarkably the Brega pipeline and some peripheral infrastructure.
Autor: Patrick Castelli Cirera, profesor del Máster en Diseño, Construcción y Explotación de Obras Hidráulicas