MAKING THE SAHARA DESERT GREEN
Vesela Tanaskovic, mentor Georg Hauger
Department of Transportation Systems Planning
In a world which will be home to 9 billion (1) people by the middle of this century, producing enough food and other vital resources is a great challenge for humanity. Today, there are millions of Africans suffering from malnourishment and living not just without an adequate supply of food and potable water, but without sewage systems, running water, electricity, employment and other amenities. Egypt is one of the most populous countries in its region, with the population currently standing at over 80 million people (1), mostly living on the banks of the River Nile. Several international organisations estimate that by 2050, Egypt’s population will be between 113 and 128 million, with local estimates foreseeing it reaching the 200 million (2). Bear in mind that the area of Egypt is over 1 million km2 but that most of this is desert, with only 4% being agricultural land; that is exasperated by migration to the cities and the loss of arable land incurred by urbanisation. Supplying this population with food and water, let alone enough vital resources, is a great challenge that is reflected most accurately by the urgent need for new arable land (3). Now one of the biggest users of fertilisers in the developing world, the bulk of Egypt’s once fertile alluvial today lays sedimented behind the Aswan High Dam, with an additional 110 million tons of silt building up each year (4). Drastically lacking in food and arable land, it is vital that Egypt does not allow this “sediment phenomenon” to remain unused. The consequences of building the Aswan High Dam have been charted by many articles and scientific papers (5 & 6) since the dam was erected, but there have still not been a great amount of changes in the overall usage of the over 7 billion tons of silt which have accumulated. There have been many environmental, habitational, social and cultural ways in which both Egypt and Sudan have been affected by the dam, but there still remain many pressing questions concerning the dam and its surroundings. This research aims to develop a sustainable solution for future needs in terms of food, energy, habitats, and new job opportunities, and contribute to resilient solutions. We propose a beyond sustainable solution for the use of the sediment. The research aims to contribute to the Egyptian people by making new arable fields, roads, green electricity, and new habitats. We aim to make a totally self-sustained system and intend to make a new valley, similar to the one proposed by President Nasser many years ago now possible by using our specially designed system as a means of afforestationing the area. With our specially designed beyond sustainable system, the goal is additional 1.5 million hectares of new arable land. The research itself focuses on the influence of the greening of a part of Sahara and what effects it could have on micro climate change and if it would eventually lead to positive effects on the global climate. With constant shifts between the Sahel and Sahara, we ask a question, would it be possible to give a technological push to the Sahel and bring back the greenery of six to seven thousand (7) years ago? The second major question is if the predominance of Sahel is provided for will this have a positive effect on global climate, and if yes, which kind of effect? Will this lead to the much sought after afforestation of the Sahara? Would this in turn prevent global warming? And if so, how many years would it take for the Sahara to, with our help, turn into the Sahel?
Keywords: green Sahara; sustainable system design; logistics; resilience; Aswan High Dam reservoir.
1) UN, United Nations data a world of information. http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=egypt
2) “10 Proposed Projects for Land Reform and Power Generation, To sustain the life of the People of Egypt”, 17 January 2012, MIK Technology, Houston, Texas USA
Maher Kelada. https://miktechnology.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/10-proposedprojects-to-save-the-nile-delta-and-reclaim-2-million-acres-of-egypts-desert-2/
3) The world stat info, 9 November 2012. http://en.worldstat.info/Africa/Egypt/Land
4) “Rivers of life: the challenge of restoring health to fresh water ecosystems” S. Postel, Water science and technology, Vol. 45, No. 11, pp. 3-8.
5) “Environmental Evaluation For High Aswan Dam Since Its Construction Until Present”, Ahmed Moussa, Sixth International Water Technology Conference, IWTC 2001, Alexandria, Egypt.
6) “The value of the High Aswan Dam to the Egyptian economy”, Kenneth M. Strzepek, Ecological Economics 66 (2008) pp. 117-126.
7) “Ancient watercourses and biogeography of the Sahara explain the peopling of the desert”, Nick A. Drake, PNAS, 2011, Vol. 108 No. 2 pp. 458-462.
Published in the book of the Vienna Young Scientist Symposium
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