Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Underground lake brings hope to Darfur

Radar data recorded in space has found the remains of a giant lake under Darfur's arid sands, launching plans to sink 1,000 wells that could help stop the region's war.

A team led by a veteran of Nasa's Apollo lunar exploration programme used satellites' remote sensing equipment to build a picture of the 12,000 sq mile lake.

Although its waters drained away as the region turned to semi-desert, researchers are confident large amounts of moisture have been preserved as groundwater.

The conflict in the western Sudanese province of Darfur, which has killed 200,000 people and forced 250,000 from their homes, has its roots in clashes over scarce water resources.

Long-running skirmishes between Arab nomads and black African farmers, both fighting for dwindling supplies, erupted into government-sponsored civil war in 2003.

"Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for economic development in Darfur," said Farouk El-Baz, director of the Boston University Centre for Remote Sensing.

"New water resources will provide hope to the people of north-western Sudan and will also allow for the migration of the labour force closer to the wells, where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable."

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