Sustainability: The only way forward for Libya

I was introduced to the concept of sustainability through a range of modules I studied during my undergraduate degree. I came to understand the inter-connectivity of the Earth’s systems and the vital role that sustainable resource management plays in contributing to the development of a country. I soon realised that I wanted to know about sustainability in Libya to learn if it is integrated into the National development strategy and policy decisions. That’s why I decided that sustainability would be a great topic for my very first blog.

Libya is experiencing water scarcity due to the increase in demand from population growth, the excessive use of agriculture and low annual precipitation. The concern over fresh water depletion and the degradation of the quality of local aquifers due to seawater intrusion drove the government to expand to groundwater exploitation after the discovery of deep fossil water, which is a non-renewable resource. The Great-Man Made River (GMMR) was designed to transfer water from the south aquifers to the coastal areas with the following objectives:

  • Achieve food security by converting the land from arid to fertile and in turn, decrease the agricultural imports and increase exports, which would lead to an increase in GDP.
  • Decrease unemployment by providing opportunities to work in the GMMR project and the agriculture sector and increase the population by solving the water shortage issue.
  • Solve the seawater intrusion and the degradation of vegetation

The first and second phases of the project were completed but due to financial issues and the revolution in 2011 that resulted in a change in government and the political system, the project had to be suspended. What started as a solution to sustain the country’s economical, social and environmental needs has resulted in huge consumption of water resources due to inappropriate agricultural practices. There is a need for agricultural policies that ensure sustainable use of water resources, as well as the development of non-conventional water resources such as desalination plants that have become more economic than the GMMR.

The main limitation of the project was due to unsustainable local agricultural practices. Failing to realise the importance of public awareness has caused the water management strategy, unable to achieve water sustainability in Libya. Good intentions can result in bigger problems by not realising the consequences of choices, which is a result of not understanding the connectivity of the Earth’s systems. Rather than perceiving sustainability as a problem, it could be considered as an opportunity for innovation once we start looking at it from a different perspective.