Greening the Deserts of the Middle East and North Africa
However the current Middle East conflicts turn out, most everyone across Middle Eastern countries will still be living in a desert. Water conflicts between nations are likely to continue into the future across the Middle East and North Africa.
A post on Judith Curry’s great Climate Etc. site, titled Greening the world’s deserts, offers compelling and Earth changing ideas for bringing more life and prosperity to this very dry and very poor part of the world.
The map at right shows the world’s desert regions. The biggest crossed north Africa and the Middle East. Curry quotes an email from Gijs Graafland from the Planck Foundation who argues the technology exists to:
turning all the global deserts into high performance economic areas by the use of salt sea/ocean water for irrigation. (mainly based on salt resistant crops: the so called halophyte crops: almost all sweet water demanding crops have a halophyte ‘nephew’)
It’s about dredging a network of salt water rivers into the deserts towards millions new created diversified family farms. (or about installing seawater pipelines, if there are rocky soils and/or landscape elevation that would make salt water rivers impossible)
This model could turn many currently net food importing nations into main food suppliers of the world. (desert soils combined with salt water irrigation are very productive)…
A high performance salt water resistant crop like salicornia (its beans has 30% oil and 35% protein) has great potential for desert greening…
More information can be found on http://www.desertcorp.com where you can find also some informational videos on desert greening economy here too…
Salt water based agriculture/aquaculture will change the global landscape and global food/water/ energy perspectives.
[D]redging a network of salt water rivers into the deserts? Doesn’t that seem likely to be crazy expensive with the energy needed to pump water hundreds of miles into North African and Middle Eastern deserts?
Well, here is where geography comes in handy. Consider that the Qattara Depression in northwest Egypt is 134 meters, 440 feet, below sea level. It is one of seven depressions in Egypt. And the Qattara Depression is just over 40 miles, 70 kilometers, from the Mediterranean coast.
Scientists, academics, and even the CIA, however, have been thinking about flooding Egypt’s Qattara Depression for the past century. Jules Verne even wrote a book about the idea of flooding a low-lying portion of the Sahara in order to create an inland sea for economic benefit back in 1905.
Water falling to the Qattara depression would generate electricity to power the pumps, according the early planners. Students can find more on the Qattara Depression Project online.
Other desert areas in North Africa and the Middle East are way below sea level. The Dead Sea is 407 meters down, 1,335 feet, the lowest place on the Earth’s surface (more at Jordan: Geography and Environment page)
The Times of Israel reports on progress to build a Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline (December, 9, 2013):
The Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, known informally as the Red-Dead project, is expected to cost $250-$400 million, to be raised from donor countries and philanthropic sources as well as a cash injection from the World Bank, the report said. Within a year, international tenders will be published for the construction of the pipeline in Jordanian territory along the Arava valley.
The MENA region is one of the most water-scarce regions in the world. Although home to 6.3 per cent of the world’s population (and growing), the region has access to only 1.4 per cent of the world’s renewable fresh water (and declining). To make matters worse, the region currently exploits over 75 per cent of its available renewable water resources due to its burgeoning population, increased urbanisation, mispricing of water and rapid economic growth.
Nasser Saidi cites a World Bank study proposing solar powered desalination.
A commenter noted that new desalination technology developed is Israel lowers energy consumption significantly, and linked to the post here.
So many interesting ideas for finding ways to green the deserts of the Middle East, and consider U.S. policies that would open the door for U.S. companies and foundations to support such projects.