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Nov 10, 2010

The Qattarah Depression Proposal

The almasry-alyoum newspaper published an interesting article written by Ali Zalat (11/3/10) that focused on an old idea that dates back to 1912 to turn the depression of “al-Qattarah” into the largest man-made lake. In 1912, the German scientist Mr. Penk began his study on how to dig a canal to connect that Mediterranean Sea into the Qattarah Depression. In 1927, he proposed constructing a canal or tunnel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Qattarah Depression near the area of al-Alamain. The purpose behind the proposed project then was to generate electrical power. At the time, the project looked simple to implement, but it was not seriously considered.

Nevertheless, the new scientific reports that have been published during the past few years about the global climate changes, temperature increases and their negative impact on certain regions worldwide. Mediterranean countries with low land levels like Egypt will be in danger. The reports already projected that the North Pole ice has been melting due to the increasing world temperature. As a result of ice melting, the water level of the Mediterranean Sea will rise and this will cause low land flooding. Some Egyptian scientists have stated that one third of the Nile Delta region will be under water during the next four to five decades.

Such projection began to revive the old Khattarah Depression Project, not only to generate power but to save the Nile Delta region from the projected future flooding. Recently, the Asyout University and the Egyptian Engineering Society sponsored a meeting to discuss the impact of the global climate changes and their impact on Egypt (almasry-alyoum.com, 11/4/2010). At the meeting, Dr. K. Oudah pointed out that
Egypt will be one of the most endangered countries in the world due to its lowland level from the rising sea level and the projected one meter rise of sea level as a result of ice melting will flood more than one third of the Delta region. He also called for the revival of the Khattarah Depression to save the Delta region from flooding. Scientists projected that during the 21st Century, Egyptian sea levels and shores will be covered by more than 2.5 trillion cu.met. of seawater. The Khattarah Depression will absorb at least half of that amount of the projected water level increase. The Khattarah Depression area size has been estimated at 206,950 square kilometers and it is located at 58.9 meters below the Mediterranean Sea level. Furthermore, according to the scientific study, it will take 60 years to fill the Qattarah Depression. The study also revealed more benefit from the implementation of the project. From an environmental point of view, the evaporation of the water of the biggest man-made lake will increase rainfall in the surrounding region, which will enhance the possibilities of agricultural cultivation. Also, the water evaporation will have a positive impact on big urban areas such as Cairo, since the northwestern winds usually pass over the proposed lake region and carry some of the water evaporation to the east and clear the air pollution in the urban region.

In addition to the environmental benefits, there will also be significant economic benefits. The proposed Qattarah project will generate electrical power and some of the Egyptian scientists equate it to the Aswan Dam. Furthermore, the shores of the Qattarah Depression will enhance tourism in the area since it will be the biggest man-made lake. Additional benefits will be created, since the lake will be an important area for sea fishing, which Egypt needs badly.

The report also estimated that the total cost to implement the proposed project will be around 55 billion Egyptian pounds. This includes the construction of 4 – 5 electrical power generation stations and the transfer of power.

Specialists estimated that the stretched shore lands along the Mediterranean Sea and the projected land shores around the lake of the Qattarah Depression will be sold to private investors, which will generate more than 1.2 trillion Egyptian pounds (www.almasry-alyoum.com, 11/3/10).

Journalists, scientists and Egyptian engineers and academicians have been urging the Egyptian government to consider the project seriously before it is too late, at least to save the Delta region from the projected sea flooding.

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