The Great Man Made River


The 8th wonder of the world or a white elephant? The vision: In 1984 Colonel Qadhafi of Libya had a vision: Bring the water to the people rather than the people to the water. Bring life to North Africa. Give Libya total independence from foreign powers on water supplies. Dramatically reduce food imports and the dependence on petrol. Then the same year he launched a massive water pipeline project, the Great Man Made River GMMR. Designed as a show piece of the revolution it should make the desert bloom.

The task: The transport of fossil water from underground aquifiers in the central Sahara to the strip of land along the coast of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica where the population is concentrated and where agricultural activity is possible. The goal is to irrigate 300.000 to 500.000 ha of arid desert.

The physical scale of the GMMR and its costs estimated at USD 35 billions is enormous. Propaganda leaflets boast: Enough aggregate to build 20 structures the size of Egypts great Khufu pyramid at Giza. 1300 water wells drilled. 4000 Kilometers of pipeline covering an area equal to West Europe and capable of carring water the equivalent of twice the flow of the UKs river Thames.

The critics would have prefered desalination plants. Fossil water cannot be renewed and there is evidence that the GMMR has already lowered the ground water table in north western Libya. Tuaregs say some of their wells are drying out. Worst case scenario is war over water with neighbouring countries. An expert predicts: Should geologists present the proof that mining water in Libya has a direct effect on the Nile bed the Egyptian army will try to put an end to the GMMR.

Browse photos