Researchers from Al-Azhar University, Boston University and the University of North Carolina have discovered an ancient river that may be revived, in theory, to irrigate Egypt’s farm lands.
Before Egypt became swept up in what one of my friends dubbed a “coupvelution,” ousted President Morsi got testy with Ethiopian government representatives over Nile River water rights – the sole source of water for Africa’s burgeoning population.
Ethiopia is pushing an intense agenda to improve its energy infrastructure with hydroelectric plants, including a plan to build the controversial Grand Millenium Dam thought by critics to be an inevitable environmental and social disaster.
Of course, these ambitions threaten Egypt’s longstanding monopoly of the Nile River, even though its headwaters are in Ethiopia.
New research published on Geomorphology last month might take the pressure off.
“The desert of the Sinai Peninsula receives the most rainfall of any part of Egypt — around 304 millimetres annually — but most of it is of no benefit to agriculture, instead flowing out into the Mediterranean Sea in flash floods,” according to SciDev.net, which interviewed the authors.
Using satellite radar images, the research team mapped out where an ancient river used to drain the Wadi El-Arish valley – back in towards the desert, and then proposed a method to revive it.
They recommend constructing a two kilometer long, six meter deep channel that can be used to irrigate thirsty farms.
“Accessing that depression would allow its stored water to be used for agriculture,” Farouk El-Baz, an author of the paper and director of the Center for Remote Sensing, told the paper.
The runoff during flash floods is expected to create a 1,400 square kilometer tract of fertile land west of Gebel Halal, which is said to offer other ideal conditions for potential farmers.
At something of a political standstill, Egypt is unlikely to begin any new infrastructure projects just yet; SciDev reported on June 26th that the government is assessing the project, but it seems prudent to wonder who, if anyone, is currently calling the shots?
Meanwhile, one should keep an eye on Ethiopia, which could attempt to take advantage of its neighbors woes to push its own agenda throughout the Nile River basin.
Image of working donkeys in Egypt, Shutterstock