Dr. Veysel EROĞLU

In the middle of the 20th century, while searching for oil, the Libyans discovered a large water source east of the Sahara Desert. The enormous amount of water; The Artificial River project, which was implemented in order to eliminate the drinking water problem in the country, to prevent desertification in the region and to be used in agricultural activities, failed as a result of the internal turmoil in 2011. Had it been completed, an “Arab Spring” could have been experienced, and a stable and fully independent Libya would have emerged.

Muhammed Manguş, who was a pioneer in starting the first construction works of Turkish contractors in the international arena in 1973, despite the bids of many European and Asian contractors for the construction of Tripoli, one of the largest ports in Libya, Manguş preferred Turkish contractors due to its loyalty debt to Turkey. has done. It is known that he said “No matter what I do, I cannot pay my debt to the Turks”. Muhammed el Manguş, who became the Prime Minister in 1997, continued his cooperation with our country and made great contributions especially to Turkish contractors’ opening up to the Middle East, Russia and the whole world, starting from Libya. Muhammed el Manguş, whose love for Turkey never diminished, served as Libya’s Ambassador to Ankara in 2002 after leaving active politics. When the late Muhammed el Manguş was the Ankara Ambassador, When I was a faculty member at Istanbul Technical University, I went to Libya with a delegation at the invitation of Mr. Muhammet Manguş. At that time, I was an associate professor at ITU. We had the opportunity to examine the project, which was translated as the “Great Artificial River Project” into our language, which they call the “Great Man Made River Project”. Mr. Manguş provided us with very detailed information about this great project. I even went to Fezzan and studied all its phases, starting with the fossil water source in the desert. This project was a very important project for the future of Libya and the region. In 2011, together with the “Arab Spring”, which started especially in Libya and spread to a large part of the region, the said “Great Artificial River Project” also failed.
Today, it is known that there is a general water shortage, especially in the vicinity of Benghazi and Tripoli. When I saw that the “Great Artificial River Project”, which was carried out by the late Muhammed el Manguş during his ministry and prime ministership, was tried to be destroyed during this period, I was very upset and at the same time amazed. Unfortunately, this important project, which has been largely completed as a result of the West’s disruption of peace and stability in Libya, has completely failed and remained idle.

The re-activation of this giant project, whose construction works have been completed to a large extent, by the Libyan State is very important in terms of meeting the country’s need for drinking water, industrial water, and irrigation water. I am of the opinion that this project, which is of great importance for Libya, must be continued and implemented. Our Turkish contractors have the knowledge and experience to easily complete this unfinished project in Libya. I would like to express that I am ready to convey all my support and experience to Libya, as someone who personally examined the project on site and implemented many water-related projects in Africa during my time as an associate professor.


Although two-thirds of the world is covered with water, only 3 percent of this water is drinkable, that is, fresh water. The distribution of these water resources varies from country to country. In some regions, water resources are more than the need, while in some regions there are not enough water resources. Therefore, this imbalance in water resources causes some countries to experience drinking water shortages. Countries that suffer from drinking water problems are trying to overcome this problem within their own means.Libya, located in the north of Africa, is one of the countries that suffer from drinking water shortages. Libya sought a solution to the drought of Libya, 95 percent of which is desert, with the “Great Artificial River Project” they implemented to overcome the drinking water shortage. In Libya, which receives almost no precipitation, the country’s average annual precipitation is only 100 mm. In some areas it only rains 5-10 times a year.

In the middle of the 20th century, while searching for oil, the Libyans discovered a large water source east of the Sahara Desert. This fossil water source found is one of the 12 largest underground water sources in the world. This resource, whose amount is estimated to be around 2 million km3, is located within the borders of four different countries in North Africa. The discovery of this enormous resource has brought joy to the whole country. Although studies were carried out for the implementation of the project in the 1960s, the construction of the project was only started in 1984.
By realizing this big project, Libya aimed to transport the water to be extracted from the underground to the cities in the north of the country. In total, 1,300 wells were drilled, 3,500 km of giant transmission lines and water reservoirs were built in five separate deserts. The Great Artificial River Project was planned in five distinct phases. In the first phase, there was the construction of the factory where 80 tons of pipes to be used along the line determined for the transportation of water would be produced. In total, more than half a million pieces of huge pipes with a diameter of 4 meters were produced at the factory. In addition, the production of various materials to be used in many places was also carried out in this factory.
With the implementation of the project, Libya has been transformed into a giant construction site. Many German, Japanese and American foreign companies came to the country to work on this project. In addition, thousands of workers from different countries flocked to the country. In this first phase of the project, South Korean companies and experts took the most important share. State-of-the-art roads have been built that can handle trucks and loads that will carry very heavy concrete pipes. In the first phase of the project, wells, mostly 500 meters deep, were drilled and an enormous 1,200 km long water conveyance line was built. The pipes were laid to a depth of 6 meters and a total of approximately 85 million m3 of soil was transported. The cost of this first phase of the project is approximately 5 billion dollars.
The second phase of the project is the Hosuna-Jefara pipeline, which started in 1989. With this 1,732 km long transmission line, which became operational in 1996, it was aimed to transport water to Tripoli, the largest city and capital of Libya. In the second phase, 2.5 million m3 of water was delivered daily not only to Tripoli, but also to the surrounding settlements.The third phase of the project is the transmission line between Al Gardabiya and Assada. While this 190 km long line connects the first and second phases, it was built to connect Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, to the facilities of the Koufra Oasis. With the second largest water transmission line planned to be built from Benghazi, it is aimed to establish a complete network with the cities of Tobruk and Sirte. The factory continued production at full speed for the pipes and concrete of such a huge network. By 2011, most of the planned works of the “Great Artificial River Project” were ready for use.
The longest water transmission line in the world with a length of 3,500 km has begun to transfer water. 6.5 million m3 of water per day was transferred from the 4 big water sources in the south of Libya to the populated areas in the north through giant pipes.
Before the internal turmoil that started in 2011, three phases of the project, which consisted of five phases, were completed and the fourth phase was in a position to start easily thanks to the huge artificial river that was ready. Thanks to this artificial river, Libyans were able to deliver 6.5 million m3 of fresh water per day to cities and settlements. This resource had reached the level to supply 8.5 million people.The supplied water was used not only for drinking water but also for agricultural purposes. Already, 70 percent of the water was planned to be used for irrigation. Large farms producing wheat, barley, vegetables and citrus were developed in the country. In fact, the large artificial river in this project was not only designed to provide fresh water to humans. At the heart of the work, it was desired to completely end the dependence on the import of agricultural products.

The Great Artificial River Project had another vital benefit. In addition to the drinking water provided, it was also desired to prevent desertification in the north and west of the country. Green areas were increasing in the country. However, the cost of this project was quite high. According to some sources, the total cost of the project was over $25 billion. This situation was constantly brought to the agenda of the Libyan people by some malevolent outbreaks. However, when a reasonable calculation was made, the cost of the project was very small compared to its earnings.In fact, most of the project had been completed before the internal turmoil in Libya and it was aimed to complete all phases in 2015. In other words, the project continued as planned for about 20 years and the last 4 years remained. Libya used only its own financial resources in the construction of the project and did not take loans from outside. Some did not like the fact that Libya did not borrow from abroad.

With the efforts of the media, which served some segments of the world, the project began to fail.


The Great Artificial River Project also entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2008 as the largest irrigation system in the world. Despite this, the Western media did not want to bring up this enormous project too much.In fact, the Libyans had implemented an enormous project that could irrigate thousands of hectares of land and turn the deserted areas into agriculture. However, due to internal turmoil in 2011, this gigantic project was stopped. Today, the project is not a priority in the country. This issue is not even brought up. Also, during the internal turmoil, the completed parts of the project were attacked and the project was damaged.

As a result, in recent years, the problem of drinking water has started to be experienced again in the country, and the problem of drinking water has reached the highest level in Tripoli and Benghazi. The infrastructure of the Great Artificial River Project is being damaged day by day as a result of both the lack of maintenance of the pumping centers and some armed attacks.


As a result of all these negative effects experienced in the project, desertification has started again in the country. Had the Great Artificial River Project been fully implemented without any interruption, North Africa could have become the Earth’s agricultural warehouse. If there had been no internal turmoil in the country, an “Arab Spring” could have happened in Libya. The food needs of not only Libya but the whole of Africa could be met with this project, resulting in a stable and fully independent Libya. The strengthening of Libya and its full independence in the economy would also create a locomotive effect in the countries of the region. Unfortunately, this project was not completed.

The Libyan State needs to work to bring this enormous project back to life. We, as Turkey, are ready to provide all kinds of support to the friendly and brotherly country Libya. Our Turkish contractors have the knowledge and experience to easily complete this unfinished project in Libya. I personally wholeheartedly support the realization of this project, which I personally studied during my associate professorship. I would like to express that I am ready to share all kinds of support and experience for the completion of the project.

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