afrol News / SciDev.Net, 26 June - The recent discovery of a mega-lake under northern Darfur has prompted an initiative to fund well-drilling in the region. The President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has agreed to the initiative, which is to tackle the problem of water shortage in north-western Sudan and may contribute to a peace solution.
The "1,000 Wells For Darfur" initiative was agreed on during a meeting in Khartoum last week between President al-Bashir and the Egyptian scientist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at the US-based Boston University, who had proposed the initiative.
The initiative is based on the discovery, by the Boston University team, of an ancient underground mega lake in northern Darfur. A paper detailing the discovery is due to be published in an upcoming issue of the 'International Journal of Remote Sensing', a geographic science journal.
Mr El-Baz told the science media 'SciDev.Net' that the presumption that vast amounts of water can be utilised from the lake is based on the fact that 500 wells, drilled into an identical basin (East Uweinat) in southwest Egypt, have irrigated up to 150,000 acres for at least 100 years.
The 1,000 Wells initiative is to be presented to the Sudanese government Council of Ministers in its upcoming meeting to work out the details. The UN Mission in Sudan is also planning to drill a few wells to improve the water supply.
The lack of rainfall in the region is cited as one of the drivers behind the initial fighting between settled farmers and nomadic herders. The arid Darfur region, many analysts hold, for decades had come under increased pressure due to a growing population, spurring conflicts between these two different land users.
Also President al-Bashir has said the shortage of water resources was the "core" of the problem in Darfur. "This is a humanitarian effort in the first place, and we invite everyone to help us achieve the objective of providing water to the people that need it most. Stabilising this important region of our country is a noble cause, which we fully stand behind," said the Sudanese President.
Individuals, non-governmental organisations, countries and international organisations will be invited to participate in the 1,000 Wells initiative to support the people of north-western Sudan in general and Darfur in particular.
Mr El-Baz said that any person, organisation or country that provides US$ 10 million or funding for ten wells will be named on the wells.
"The Darfur initiative will bring hope to the people of north-western Sudan; it will allow the migration of the labour force to locations where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable," he said, adding, "This initiative can be a starting point for ameliorating the human suffering in the region and raising the quality of life and capacity of its people."
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