The Great Man-Made River of Libya

Jul 17, 2015 19 comments

One of the biggest civilian development project that Libya’s ex-president Muammar Gaddafi undertook during his forty-two-year rule was the Great Man-Made River. Gaddafi’s dream was to provide fresh water for everyone, and to turn the desert green, making Libya self-sufficient in food production. To make this dream a reality, Gaddafi commissioned a massive engineering project consisting of a network of underground pipes that would bring fresh water from ancient underground aquifers deep in the Sahara to the drought suffering Libyan cities. Gaddafi called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The western media rarely mentioned it, and whenever it did, it was dismissed as a “vanity project” calling it "Gaddafi's Pet Project" and “the pipe dream of a mad dog”. But truth is, the Great Man-Made River Project is a fantastic water delivery system that has changed lives of Libyans all across the country.


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Libya is one of the sunniest and driest countries in the world. There are places where decades may pass without seeing any rainfall at all, and even in the highlands rainfall seldom happens, like once every 5 to 10 years. Less than 5% of the country receives enough rainfall for settled agriculture. Much of Libya's water supply used to come from desalination plants on the coast, which were expensive and therefore used only for domestic purposes. Little was left for irrigating the land.

In 1953, while searching for new oilfields in southern Libya, vast quantities of ancient water aquifers were discovered. The exploration team discovered four huge basins with estimated capacities of each ranging between 4,800 and 20,000 cubic km. Most of this water was collected between 38,000 and 14,000 years ago, before the end of the last ice age, when the Saharan region enjoyed a temperate climate.

After Gaddafi and the Free Unitary Officers seized power in a bloodless coup in 1969, the new government immediately nationalized the oil companies and started using the revenues from oil to set up hundreds of bore wells to bring fresh water from the desert aquifers. Initially, Gaddafi planned to set up large-scale agricultural projects in the desert where the water was found, but when the people displayed reluctance to move, he conceived a plan to bring the water to the people instead.


Schematic drawing of the project. Photo credit

In August 1984, Muammar Gaddafi laid the foundation stone for the pipe production plant at Brega, and the Great Man-Made River Project began. Around 1,300 wells were dug into the desert soil, some up to 500 meters deep, to pump water from the subterranean water reserve. The pumped water is then distributed to 6.5 million people living in the cities of Tripoli, Benghazi, Sirte and elsewhere through a network of underground pipes 2,800 km long. When the fifth and final phase of the project is complete, the network will have 4,000 km length of pipes that will enable 155,000 hectares of land to be cultivated. Even with the last two phases yet to complete, the Great Man-Made River is the world's largest irrigation project.

The pipeline first reached Tripoli in 1996, at the completion of the first phase of the project. Adam Kuwairi, a senior figure in the Great Man-Made River Authority (GMRA), vividly remembers the impact the fresh water had on him and his family.

"The water changed lives. For the first time in our history, there was water in the tap for washing, shaving and showering," he told BBC. "The quality of life is better now, and it's impacting on the whole country."

The project was so well recognized internationally that in 1999, UNESCO accepted Libya’s offer to fund the Great Man-Made River International Water Prize, an award that rewards remarkable scientific research work on water usage in arid areas.


US citizens protesting against US military action in Libya in Minneapolis, on March 21, 2011. Photo credit

In July 2011, NATO bombed the Great Man-Made River water supply pipeline near Brega including a factory that produces the pipes, claiming that the factory was used as “a military storage facility” and that “rockets were launched from there”. NATO’s attack on the pipeline disrupted water supply for 70% of the population who depended on the piped supply for personal use and for irrigation. The country now reeling under civil war, the future of the Great Man-Made River Project is in jeopardy.

Back in 1991, at the opening of the first phase of the project, Muammar Gaddafi had prophetically said about the largest civil engineering venture in the world:

“After this achievement, American threats against Libya will double. The United States will make excuses, but the real reason is to stop this achievement, to keep the people of Libya oppressed.”


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Fleet of more than one hundred transporters has altogether travelled a distance equal to the distance between the Earth and Sun. Photo credit


Transport of pipe segments. Photo credit


Work on trench digging for waterpipe. Photo credit


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Sources: Scoop / Global Research / Human rights investigations / BBC / The Economist


  1. Sadly with no refill the ancient water will run out, just as it has done elsewhere.

    1. Did you try to estimate how soon that will happen?

    2. Libyans say it will last for thousands of years. Others say it will run out in 60-100 years. I'm leaning on the latter.

  2. and we never heard about this, or its destruction by US + NATO, on CNN, BBC, MSN etc - all the corporate-owned mainstream media. OMG i am shocked, they must have accidentally overlooked this important story.

  3. ...does anybody precisely knows what is actually - 2015 - going on there...? ...something still functioning? ...irrigation schemes still operating?


  4. Well said! Unfortunatelly, you're rite on the button.

  5. You're absolutely barking.
    Is your tinfoil hat too tight & restricting the blood flow to what passes for a brain?

  6. I worked 2 years in Lybia (2009-2010) just before end of Kadhafi... I have seen it... the Great Man Made River... I have seen a country stable and prosperous... And now?...

    1. I am libyan and can assure you Gaddafi was nothing but good for the country. Its a shame. Libyans have no value for real democracy. Now Libya is just full of killing and rape and torture, its sad. Rothschild, Rockefeller who own the world central banks plotted it and their dream became a reality. yet 90% of people don't know and 5% don't care. As for the final 5% they know but what can they do?

    2. There will be a 20 year hiatus in which turmoil will rule in Libya.
      The world's power governments rule by the 20 year plan. Why? Because then there will an entire new generation raised on the disseminated propaganda from the power structure. The young people will have experienced the confusion and terror of war and have no first hand knowledge of peacetime. Gadhafi's Great River will be a myth. They will be hired by 'western contractors' to 'build' a water system that will essentially be the Great River but renamed and remade in the face of western success.
      War makes everything new again.

  7. I dotn understand what youre saying.. big words!!!!!!

  8. Reading this hurts deeply.
    Not seeing much of this story covered by our western media tells me that its all true.
    I guess the water is now sold by Nestle and the profits end up at the City of London with the Rotschilds.

    I wish all the Lybians and our African Sisters and Brothers strength and hope they can forgive us for our many sins.

    Its on us to fight for peace together. Love You all.

  9. Is this true? My oh my! These super powers are the worst enemies. No wonder ISIS is doing all the nonsensical killings.
    Mubarak said if President invaded Iraq, 100's of bin Laden would be produced. He was right.
    The exit of Gaddafi has directly led to the emergence of the erstwhile subterranean ISIS which has now taken over Libya. The same fate awaits Syria when the leader is ousted.
    The only truth Donald Trump says is his assertion about how the exit of saddam Hussien and Gaddafi has directly led to the growth of ISIS and terrorism.
    God help the West!

  10. At the last arab meeting, Gaddafi said nato would be targeting arab and african countries but Assad laughed at that at the time. No more arab league now except some frat boys.. But Libya is destroyed and its oil and water will be stolen. He should have taken more caution about his own words. He though he could make good by admitting things he did not do and paying for it. Little did he understand how colonialism and imperialism works. libyans are the biggest losers no matter who they are.

  11. It is an inspiration for such a great great initiative that helped and provided the needy with water which is life and all those benefited must have enjoyed the fruits of the great men and women who worked tirelessly to make this incredible project and idea such a GREAT SUCCESS. African leaders have to take such ideas that benefit their nations and make such life changing remarkable projects. Blessings with Best Wishes..!!

  12. Years later the truth will be revealed to the whole world why Russia invaded Ukraine. Gaddafi’s vision for his people was just too much for them so they had to come up with a good propaganda to invade and kill M.Gaddafi.
    What a shame

  13. This is such a travesty and the fact that countries round the world like Australia where I live have never revealed this in our media. Gaddafi was always
    portrayed as an evil man here.

  14. Between this project and his plan to replace the Petro dollar with the gold dinar, libya was on the verge of a great future...but the globalist Rothchilds told their lackeys in the white house (Clinton andand the president of France (who had the most to lose)to destroy him. Hillaries emails to the Rothchilds document this.


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