Friday, July 20, 2007

Water in Darfur--a "Mega-lake," even

Boston University scientists recently utilized radar data to uncover a large underground lake--about the size of Massachusetts--in the Darfur region of Sudan. I'm woefully unfamiliar with the civil strife in Darfur (as, I imagine, most Americans are), but I'm skeptical that this water finding is as much the solution to the problems there as the headlines and article quotes indicate.

To be sure, water is better than no water, just as employment is better than unemployment. But it's not clear from the articles exactly how much water is in this lake (as big as Massachusetts, but how deep?), when it can begin to be utilized, or how long it can be projected to last (will it be exploited something like the Oglala aquifer?). Add in political strife that must run deeper than water shortages and the effects of climate change that are likely to stretch water resources even thinner in that part of the world, and this lake might not buy much time at all.

Sorry, I guess I'm just cynical today. I'm seeing the lake as half-empty rather than half-full. Har. har. har.

Update: It looks like the media may have jumped on this bandwagon way too soon, apparently ignoring the likelihood that this "mega-lake" is actually dry. Shocking.


Tommbert said...

"Megalake" is the best they can come up with? Also, since when did something underground constitute a lake instead of a water table or an aquifer?

I would tend to agree that finding a resource is only going to create different problems, probably more numerous the existing ones. And, at least, it's going to exacerbate the existing political situation by creating something more that has to be governed and controlled, lest it be used up in a mad resource rush. Sigh. It is odd that they would be that optimistic about it.

MBQ said...

"Lake" sounds better than "aquifer," probably. Maybe it has something to do with how the water ended up underground? I should know this, but I don't.

I think the overwhelming reaction of hope to the water supply is more a sign of just how bad things are in Darfur than anything else. They're so desperate for any good news that finding this massive water supply must seem like a godsend to the people interested in bringing stability to that region.

The existence of water can lead to a massive change in the landscape for the better (as it did in Egypt). This is the time when the international community needs to get serious about stepping in and helping - it's good to see Egypt taking a leadership role in getting that water above ground but they can't (and won't) do it alone.