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The president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, has agreed to an initiative to tackle the problem of water shortage in northwestern Sudan.
The "1,000 Wells For Darfur" initiative was agreed on during a meeting (20 June) in Khartoum between Al Bashir and the Egyptian scientist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at the US-based Boston University, who 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.
El-Baz told 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 will be presented to the Sudan Government Council of Ministers in its upcoming meeting to work out the details.
The United Nations 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 (see Darfur needs technological solutions).
Al Bashir 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 Al Bashir
Individuals, nongovernmental organisations, countries and international organisations will be invited to participate in the 1,000 Wells initiative to support the people of northwestern Sudan in general and Darfur in particular.
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 northwestern Sudan; it will allow the migration of the labour force to locations where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable," he said.
He added, "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."