Libyans called it the eighth wonder of the world. Western media called it a pet project and the pipe dream of a mad dog.
One of the biggest civilian development project that Libya’s ex-president Muammar Gaddafi undertook during his forty-two-year rule was the Great Man-Made River. Gaddafi’s dream was to provide fresh water for everyone, and to turn the desert green, making Libya self-sufficient in food production. To make this dream a reality, Gaddafi commissioned a massive engineering project consisting of a network of underground pipes that would bring fresh water from ancient underground aquifers deep in the Sahara to the drought suffering Libyan cities. Gaddafi called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The western media rarely mentioned it, and whenever it did, it was dismissed as a “vanity project” calling it “Gaddafi’s Pet Project” and “the pipe dream of a mad dog”. But truth is, the Great Man-Made River Project is a fantastic water delivery system that has changed lives of Libyans all across the country.
It was Muammar Gaddafi’s dream to provide fresh water for all Libyans and to make Libya self-sufficient in food production. In 1953, the search for new oilfields in the deserts of southern Libya led to the discovery not just of significant oil reserves, but also of vast quantities of fresh water trapped in the underlying strata. The four ancient water aquifers that were discovered, each had estimated capacities ranging between 4,800 and 20,000 cubic kilometers.
After Gaddafi and the Free Unitary Officers seized power in a bloodless coup from the corrupt King Idris during the Al-Fateh Revolution in 1969, the Jamahiriya government nationalized the oil companies and spent much of the oil revenues to harness the supply of fresh water from the desert aquifers by putting in hundreds of bore wells. Large farms were established in southern Libya to encourage the people to move to the desert. It turned out that the majority of the people however preferred life in the northern coastal areas.
Therefore Gaddafi subsequently conceived a plan to bring the water to the people instead. The Libyan Jamahiriya government conducted the initial...