Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The River of Dreams

Geological surveys in the 1970s confirmed that there was more than 120,000 cubic kilometres of pure fresh water lying under the sand of the Libyan Desert. In an extraordinary session of the General People's Congress in October 1983, the leader of the Revolution suggested transporting this water to Libya's coastal towns and thus started the Great Man Made River Project, the "8th wonder of the world", an engineering project on a scale never seen before in human history.
The pipes, the largest ever made, dwarf the transporters they are carried on and the pre-stressed steel in their manufacture would circle the earth 280 times. The quantity of aggregates used in the construction of the project would build 20 pyramids the size of the Great Pyramid of Khofu and the pipe transporters will have travelled a distance equivalent to going to the sun and back when the final phase of the project has been completed. It is envisaged that the 13000 wells that have been drilled will pump 6.5 million cubic metres of water per day. While Tripoli and Benghazi, and most of the west of the country are presently served by the Great Man Made River Project, when it is finally completed, it will deliver water to the entire Libyan nation.
The water has been beneath the Libyan Desert for between 14,000 and 38,000 years but at the car park at work, Fawzi just sprays it onto the gravel to keep the dust down. Sometimes he leaves the hosepipe on and goes away and the ground turns to white mud and the water trickles out of the gate and starts to fill the potholes in the road. A road that is strewn with cans and old tyres and empty plastic bottles of mineral water.


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