The mapping of the ancient mega-lake is a catalyst for global humanitarian outreach. The plan aims to create new ground water resources to help establish peace and economic security in the region.
A new humanitarian initiative to bring life-sustaining water resources to Darfur has been launched by the Government of Sudan, following a recent meeting between Omar Al Bashir, President of Sudan, and geologist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing.
Called “1,000 Wells for Darfur,” the plan aims to create new ground water resources to help establish peace and economic security in the region.
In addition to Sudan, the project has gained immediate support from the Government of Egypt as Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, has pledged to drill the initial 20 wells. The UN Mission in Sudan also plans to drill several wells for use by its peacekeeping forces.
“Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur,” says El-Baz.
“Any person, organization or county can contribute to this humanitarian effort. Those who provide $10 million or drill 10 wells will have their names on the wells forever,” El-Baz adds. “New water resources will provide hope to the people of northwestern Sudan and will also allow for the migration of the labor force closer to the wells, where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable.”
El-Baz traveled to Sudan earlier this summer to discuss the recent mapping of the borders of the ancient lake. The identification of the lake’s shorelines (at 1,880 feet above sea level) was done by Eman Ghoneim, a research professor, and El-Baz in the laboratories of Boston University’s Center for Remote Sensing. The lake’s features, which are covered by wind-blown sand, were unveiled by radar data from space. According to the researchers, it occupied an area about the size of Lake Erie, and would have contained approximately 607 cubic miles of water when full during humid climate phases in the past.
“One thing is certain – much of the lake’s water would have seeped through the sandstone substrate to accumulate as ground water,” says El-Baz. As proven earlier in southwest Egypt, just northeast of Darfur, a similar former lake is underlain by vast amounts of ground water. El-Baz identified the “East Uweinat” basin in southwestern Egypt where the ground water rises to 82 feet below the surface. This resulted in the drilling of more than 500 wells to irrigate up to 150,000 acres of highly successful agricultural farms where wheat and other essential crops are grown.
The next step for “1,000 Wells for Darfur” is the identification of the best locations for the initial batch of wells. “We plan to select the most appropriate sites through detailed analysis of space image data, geophysical surveys by local experts to confirm satellite image interpretations, and on-the-ground field data collection to determine the needs of the local communities,” says El-Baz.