The Great Man Made River: 70 percent of Libya’s fresh water comes from it.
Muammar Gaddafi, the eccentric strongman of Libya for more than 42 years and often referred to as the Mad Dog of the Middle East, wound up dying like a dog at the hands of his own people. Now that he is history, environmentalists following Gaddafi’s grand ecological projects, including The Great Man Made River and the mid-Sahara pivot irrigation farming projects, wonder what the future holds for these projects which could be the country’s environmental salvation.
GMMR: water from the last Ice Age
During a period that goes back nearly as long as Gaddafi ruled his desert kingdom, these projects, although very costly held a lot of promise for providing not only ample drinking water to one of the most arid countries on earth, but possibly ample food production as well via the circular pivot irrigated farms which were literally growing food and other crops in the middle of one of the most inhospitable deserts in the world – the Sahara.
In a previous Green Prophet article the artificial river project was already bringing millions of gallons of fresh water from a large prehistoric underground reservoir, formed in a previous Ice Age, and located in an area where it was once green and various species of African plains animals roamed freely – as well as the peoples who hunted them.
Began in the early 1980s, and built at a cost of more than $33 billion USD, the GMMR project involved pumping “fossilized” water from depths of more than 500 meters, purifying it, and then sending the water to the country’s major population areas. Along the way, some of the water has been diverted to the pivot irrigation projects which have been growing a number of crops, including grains, fruits and vegetables, and animal fodder.
Libyan pivot irrigation farms as viewed from space
With Libya now being a state of transition, and a centralized government still not yet in place, the future of these green projects appear to be very much in doubt.
Libya’s main source of revenue, oil and gas production is presently at a fraction of what it was prior to the beginning of the uprising in February, 2011. With no civil administration to run such projects, as well as no funds to pay workers involved in them, the projects themselves are most likely at a virtual standstill.
The pipelines and pumping stations for the GMMR may also have been damaged by the fighting and continuous air raids during the past months.
Mad man, or ecological visionary?
The dust has still not settled yet in regards to what form of government will eventually be put in place in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s long authoritarian rule. But for the sake of the people of Libya, these environmental projects have to somehow be kept going, since the GMMR alone has been providing the Libyans with more than 70% of their fresh water for personal use and for irrigation.
Gaddafi is dead, but his environmental dreams should not die with him.
More on Gaddafi and his green visions of grandeur:
The Death of Two Men: Muamar Gadaddi and Steven Jobs
Libyan Violence Dampens Great Man Made River Project
Libya Revolution Will End Gaddafi’s Green Visions
Libya Touts Great Man Made as 8th Wonder of the World