Since 1986, and under the direction of Dr. El-Baz, the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing has performed extensive research in the deserts of the Middle East. In southwest Egypt, the research resulted in the location of vast amounts of groundwater beneath the barren desert. Thus, over 500 wells now produce water for planting wheat, chickpeas, peanuts, and other crops. The proven resources in that region, just across the border of Sudan, are capable of supporting agriculture in 150,000 acres for 100 years.
Recently, the research was extended to the neighboring region of northern Sudan. The Center’s scientists defined the location and mapped the highest levels of a dry lake that filled a depression in North Darfur during past geologic times. After announcing the details of this Mega Lake, Dr. El-Baz went to Sudan in 2007 to brief President Omar Al-Bashir and other government officials. He also lectured publicly about the results of the satellite image study. In 2008, by invitation of the Governor of North Darfur, Osman Kebir, Dr. El-Baz visited Darfur to present the information to the local people and experts, and to conduct fieldwork to confirm the satellite image analyses. During these meetings, local officials expressed their support and backing for potential future work and projects in Darfur to search for additional groundwater resources.
Dr. El-Baz also met with the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who was appreciative of the scientific discovery and its potential applications. He expressed UN interest in the new exploration approach and offered to back the initiative of well drilling based on information revealed by space data. The UN interest is two-fold: first, provision of safe water for both the sedentary farmers and nomadic populations in Darfur, and second, selection of well sites for use by the Peacekeeping Force. This force will be composed of approximately 26,000 peacekeepers representing a hybrid UN/ African Union force, and it requires water immediately.
Thus, an initiative was approved by the Government of Sudan to drill 1001 wells in strategic locations starting as early as possible for immediate needs and to reposition the Mega-Lake exploration to a later time. The selection of well locations is foreseen to start after the national elections in mid-April 2010. Boston University Students began a campaign to collect funds for a well in one of the most urgent sites. Such wells would be 6-inches in diameter, about 200 feet deep, and would be operated by a hand pump that a child can operate. The cost of each well is $10,000 and would be named after the contributor of the funds. As of end of the 2012/2013 academic year, the students succeeded in raising $10,000 for one drill! The students look forward to raising another $10,000 for a second well. Let us continue the effort to achieve this great humanitarian objective.