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The Qattara Depression Project or shortly The Qattara Project is a large civil engineering project rivalling the Aswan High Dam intended to develop the Qattara Depression by flooding it. The depression is region that lies below sealevel and is currently a vast desert. By connecting the region and the Mediterranean Sea with tunnels and/or canals, water could be let into he area. The inflowing water would then evaporate quickly because of the desert climate. This way a continuous flow of water could be created if inflow and evaporation were balanced out. With this continuously flowing water hydroelectricity could be generated. Eventually this would result in a hyper-saline lake or a salt pan as the water evaporates and leaves the salt it contains behind.

Map of the Qattara Depression with waterway routes.
All proposed routes for a tunnel and/or canal route from the Mediterranean Sea towards the Qattara Depression

The proposals call for a large canal or tunnel being excavated of about {{convert|55|to|80|km|mi}} depending on the route chosen to the Mediterranean Sea to bring seawater into the area.[1] Or otherwise a 320 kilometre (200 mile) pipeline north-east to the freshwater Nile River at Rosetta.[2][3] By balancing the inflow and evaporation the lake level can be held constant. Several proposed lake levels are -70m, -60m, -50m and -20m.

Plans to use the Qattara Depression for the generation of electricity date back to 1912 from Berlin geographer Professor Penk.[4] In 1957 the American Central Intelligence Agency proposed to President Dwight Eisenhower that peace in the Middle East could be achieved by flooding the Qattara Depression. The resulting lagoon, according to the CIA, would have four benefits:[5]

  • It would be "spectacular and peaceful."
  • It would "materially alter the climate in adjacent areas."
  • It would "provide work during construction and living areas after completion for the Palestinian Arabs."
  • It would get Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser's "mind on other matters" because "he need[ed] some way to get off the Soviet Hook."

Ball period[bewerken]

The subject was discussed in more detail by Dr. John Ball in 1927.[6] Dr. Ball also made the first preliminary calculations on filling rate, electricity production and salinity.

Bassler period[bewerken]

{{See also|Friedrich Bassler}}

From 1964 onward Prof. Friedrich Bassler led the international "Board of Advisers" which was responsible for planning and financing activities of the project. He also advised the Egyptian government on the matter from 1975 onward. He was appointed to make a first preliminary feasibility study by the German Federal Ministry of Economics in Bonn.[7]

Bassler was the driving force behind the Qattara Project for nearly a decade. Half way through the seventies a team of eight mostly German scientists and technicians was working on the planning of the first hydro-solar depression power station in the world. The first "Bassler-study" of 1973 laid the basis for the Egyptian government to commission a study of it own. It decided in 1975 that Bassler and a group of companies known as "Joint Venture Qattara" should conduct a feasibility study of the project.

The project concept was: Mediterranean water should be channelled through a canal or tunnel towards the Qattara Depression which lies below sea level. This water would then fall into the depression through penstocks for electricity generation. The water would evaporate quickly because of the very dry and hot weather once in the depression. This would allow for more water to enter the depression and would create a continuous source of electricity.

A canal of 60 meters deep would connect the Mediterranean with the depressions edge at this narrow isthmus. This canal would deliver water to the depression as well as being a shipping route towards the Qattara lake with a harbour and fishing grounds in the depression. The depression was to be filled to a height of 60 m below sealevel. It would take a total of 10 years to fill to that level. After that the incoming flow would balance out against the outgoing evaporation and would the lake level stop changing.

In the first phase of the project the Qattara 1 station was to generate 670 Megawatt. The second phase was to generate an additional 1.200 Megawatt. A pumped-storage hydroelectricity facility would increase the peak production capacity with another 4.000 Megawatts, totalling about 6.800 Megawatts.

Core problem of the entire project was the water supply to the depression. Calculations showed that digging a canal or tunnel would be to expensive. Bassler decided to use peaceful nuclear explosions to excavate the canal. Exactly 213 boreholes would each have a nuclear explosive charge of 1,5 Megatons. Everyone of these bombs would have a explosive yield fifty times that of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima. This fit within the Atoms for Peace program proposed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953.

Evacuationplans cited numbers of at least 25.000 evacuees. Further problems arose with the tectonicly unstable Red Sea Rift located just 450 km away from the blast site on which the shockwaves of the explosions would not have remained without result. Also salinization or outright contamination of groundwater had to be counted among the problems because the salt water Qattara sea. This groundwater is vital to the oases of Bahariya and Siwa.

Another danger was increased coast erosion because sea currents could change in such a way that even very remote coast started to erode. Also a massive demining operation would have to be executed to remove millions of mines and UXOs left from the Second World War.

Because of the frightening nuclear solution the Egyptian government turned down the plan.[8] All the stakeholders of the project also gave up the project.

Renewed Interest[bewerken]

Present day scientists still explore the viability of such a project, as a key to resolving economic, population, and ecological stresses in the area.[9] However the project has never been undertaken.

See also[bewerken]


  1. Ragheb, M. 2010. Pumped Storage Qattara Depression Solar Hydroelectric Power Generation.pdf. Published on 28 October 2010.
  2. Mahmoud, Mohamed. The River Nile - Qattara Depression Pipeline, June 2009
  3. User:TGCP Great Circle Mapper - Rosetta to Qattara, 2011
  4. Murakami M. Managing water for peace in the Middle East United Nations University Press. p.64-66
  5. MI: Gale. 2009. Farmington Hills, CIA Suggestions, Document Number CK3100127026. Reproduced in "Declassified Documents Reference System"
  6. Ball, John. 1927. "Problems of the Libyan Desert: Geographical Journal"
  7. Historie des Instituts und der Versuchsanstalt für Wasserbau. Technische Universität Darmstadt Geraadpleegd op 2009-07-18
  8. Badescu, Viorel. 2011. Macro-Engineering Seawater In Unique Environments 1st Edition., 2011, XXXIX, 790 p. Springer
  9. Kelada, Maher. Global Hyper Saline Power Generation Qattara Depression Potential MIK Technology