Libya’s Kadafi Opens Taps on Huge Project to Bring Water to Crops

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Moammar Kadafi realized a dream Wednesday with the unveiling of a vast irrigation pipeline to grow crops in the desert. But critics say the billion-dollar project may spell folly more than salvation for the country.

The Great Man-Made River is designed to bring water from beneath the Sahara to wheat and other fields along the coast. Kadafi also hopes to reap international prestige.

Even critics are awed by the engineering and technology required to bring 523 million gallons of water a day through about 1,250 miles of pipeline linking Benghazi and Sirte cities to 270 wells in east-central Libya.


But they regard the project as a boondoggle that makes little economic sense.

Although Kadafi wants self-sufficiency for Libya in food and strategic industries, less 2% of the nation’s land is arable.

Libya believes the aquifer feeding the pipeline will last 50 years.

But critics say no one knows for sure and that nobody has adequately evaluated the environmental impact of what can only be seen as a temporary measure.

The project began on Aug. 28, 1984. Seven years and about $5 billion later, the first of five planned phases is complete. Extending the pipeline to other areas will cost an estimated $20 billion to $25 billion more.

The first phase of the pipeline is made up of 250,000 links each 23 feet long and 13 feet in diameter.