Libya’s Great Man-Made River Project

Introduction and history

Libya which is one of the North African states is situated in the driest regions in the world. It receives an annual rainfall of between 10 and 500 millimeters. It is reported that it’s only about 5% of the entire geographical region of Libya that receives rainfall exceeding 100 millimeters per annum.1700mm and 6000mm is the evaporation rate reported in north and south of Libya respectively. The spirit to tackle water scarcity in the region sprouted during the great 1969 Al Fateh Revolution, The Jamahiriya is known for its outstanding revolutionary will and devotion to the progress and development at decisive obstacles and problems facing the region.

In 1953 through the attempt to mine oil in the Libyan Southern Area a factor that led to the discovery of an even more valuable commodity in the desert region (Water).This led to the formation (GMRP), The Great Man-Made River Project in the 1960 but its work didn’t begin until 1984.The project’s original design was planned by the Price Brothers and Brown and Root (

Up to date, Libya has 4 underground basins, these are namely; the sirt basin, the morzuk basin, the Hamada basin and the Kufra basin, these reservoirs produce a total of about 35,000 kilometers cube of water. This makes it possible for Libyans to enjoy an unlimited supply of water throughout the year.


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The goal

The goal of this project was embedded in the Libyan people’s spirit of wanting to make the Great Man-Made River that would, in turn, transform her into an Agricultural production powerhouse. Able of growing enough food and supply enough water that would not only benefit the Libyan people but also their neighbors.In summary this great river project was a platform to Libya becoming self-sufficient and in trying to show the Colonial powers that a country can succeed through share determination and without reliance on Donor funding. The funding that comes with strings attached and thus a country is made to dance to the tunes of the donor.

The authority

The project is owned and run by the Great Man-Made River Project Authority, with funding from the Government of Libya. this authority was established in October 1983 and put in charge of collecting water from the aquifers located in the south, and later channeling it to be used in the most practical and economical way, mostly through irrigation of the southern belt of Libya. Its original design was done by the Price Brothers and Brown & Roots, The major constructor was Dong Ah, while Al Nah and Enka constructors played the sub-contractors role. ( man_made_river_libya.htm).Phase three of the project was engineered and designed by Halcrow consortium/Nippon Koei.While the technical support and pumping station contracts were won by “Frankenthal KSB consortium”. The pipe production responsibility was given to SNC-Lavalin through their A&M plant. The Libyan cement company was given the tender to supply the plant with cement. Thane-Coat and Harkmel and Corrintec provided pipe coating services and cathodic protection system respectively.Thyssen Krupp Fordertechnik was given the responsibility of supplying technical expertise in planning the excavation process. The other minor roles of ancillary and construction were left for companies that were indigenous. ( The (ANC)the Al Nahr Co, which comprised 75% ownership by the Libyan Government and 25%Dong Ah was formed out of the arrangement above to foresee the successful implementation and conclusion of the Great river project.

UNESCO has also played a major role in the Great Man Made project by training Technicians and Engineers. This was possible through establishing a Technical documentation center in addition to coming up with a training center.


This great venture was voted for and passed by the General People’s Congress that was convened to draft resolutions of the Basic people’s congresses in October 3rd,1983.The congress agreed to fund and also execute the project budded the 8th Wonder(Great Man-Made River Project.).Colonel Muammar Al-Quaddafi the Libya President laid the foundation stone to kick start its construction at the Sarir area. The Braga plant was commissioned by Colonel Muammar AL Quaddafi in August 28th, 1986.This plant was to produce cylinder pipes made out of concrete that had been pre-stressed. These pipes are regarded as the largest ever made pipes using Pre-stressed concrete wire. An Italian company Redaelli Tenca S.p.A which has its Main office in Malan’s Cologno Monzese town, with its main factory located in Caivano-Naples was the major supplier of those wires. The same day also saw the inauguration of the Sarir plant. Colonel Muammar Al Quaddafi kick started the second phase of the construction of the Great Man-Made River Project by laying a foundation stone on the 26th of August, 1989 (http:// )

The river phases

The first and Second phases which are also considered to be the largest had been in existence for the past 10 years in the History of the 14 Billion pounds Great Man-Made River Project of Libya. These two phases entailed the harvesting of water from Ancient reservoirs underground of the Sahara desert and channeling it through pipes to the coast to be used by about 6million Libyans who lived there. Further sections that will bring the total amount of water to 6.6milliom cubic meters a day are being constructed.

The river phases were as follows; the first phase that was aimed at 85million cubic meters was Kickstarted on the 28 of August, 1991, while the second phase is also known as “1st water” was jump-started on 1st September, 1996. Up to date Libya has 4 underground basins, these are namely; the sirt basin the morzuk basin, the Hamada basin and the Kufra basin, these reservoirs offer in total about 35,000 kilometers cube of water. This makes it possible for Libyans to enjoy unlimited supply of water through out the year (http://www.

According to the water-technology, the Largest phase which is the first one, Provides an estimate 2million cubic meters a day through a 1200km long pipe that extends from Tazerbo and Al-Sarir to Sirt and Benghazi, through the reservoir at Ajdabiya.That was inaugurated in August of 1991.This undertaking was a massive exercise that saw the use of concrete pipes estimated at 0.25 million, about 2.5 million tonnes of cement, aggregate worth 13 million tonnes, Pre-stressed steel of about 2million km in length, And required about 85million cubic meters of excavation for a whopping $14million worth of cash to complete. On the other hand The Tazerbo consisted of both piezometric observation wells and production that produced about 1milliom cubic millimeters a day.

The second phase was to take water to the Western coastal belt of Jeffara plains that are known for their fertility. The water was to come from Fezzan Region and was estimated at One million cubic millimeters. It also fed water to the capital city Tripoli. The system commenced at Sarir Qattush well field, said to have 127 wells spread along collector pipes that are 3 in number and feeds a 28million Millimeter terminal reservoir at Suq El Ahad (water-technology).

The third phase was to fall in to 3 major parts. This phase was aimed at expanding the planned phase one; it was to add 1.68 million cubic millimeters of water a day through a 700km pipe line and a pumping station all new. This would total up to 3.68milliom Millimeters cubed. It was also aimed at supplying 138,000 cubic Millimeters a day to the coast and Tobruk from Al Jaghboub a new well field. This would necessitate for the laying of 500km of pipes and construction of a new reservoir to the south of Tobruk. The conceptual Phase design features pipelines profiling and routing, pumping station, hydraulics, power, corrosion control, operational support, monitoring and evaluation, control/communication and maintenance provision.

The Fourth phase involved extension of the distribution network, construction of a linking pipeline between the Ajdabiya and Tobruk reservoirs the alignment of the Western and eastern systems into a common network. When the project had fully matured it would be able to irrigate about 155,000hectaz of cultivated land (water-technology).

The Fifth and final phase was to make a single connection of the Western and Eastern Pipes at Sirt. “Dong Ah, the successful contractors, approached and executed the project as if it were a military exercise. They built staged production plants along the length of the pipeline routes, shipping raw materials to the plants for the construction of the 4m diameter pipe cans, used and moved demountable accommodation to keep their labor forces close to the work site and cut down travel times. Scheduled their work days to avoid the hottest time of the day during summer months and had several sections of the line under construction at any given time, laying pipe to line and to level. It was very efficient and has been very effective to date winning many prizes and acclamations”

Water arrival

It was on 11th September 1989 that the first Libyan town got water arriving at its reservoir, this town was Agedabia or Ajdabija .A Town located in northeastern Libya it is the capital of the Al Wahat District. It’s divided into North, East and Western Ajdabiya which forms the Three “Basic people’s Congress”. The town is located about 160 km to the south of Benghazi.

The second town to receive water in its reservoir was Grand Omar Mukhtar which happened on 28th September 1989 a few days after Ajdabiya. The third town to receive water in its reservoir was Al Gardabiya this happened approximately 2 years after Grand Omar Mukhtar and Ajdabiya.

The fourth town to receive water was Tripoli the capital city on the 28th of August 1996 approximately five years later. Tripoli a town whose name means “3 Cities” in Greek is located it boasts of a population of about 1.06million people and also as the commercial heartbeat of (Libya

The last city to receive water was Gharyan which did so on the 28th of September, 2007 almost 18 years after the 1st town of Agedabia or Ajdabija and 11 years after Tripoli. Gharyan is located in the Al Jabal Al Gharbi District northwest of Libya. It is the Ceramic Heart town of Libya as its Best known for its Ceramic Artwork. (


The Great Man-Made River consisted of about 60% uncoated (white) pipes with the rest being coated (black.) in epoxy of coal and tar. That was in the first phase. The river was made possible by pipes networked and buried underground to rule out evaporation, the pipes had a diameter of four meters; they were laid a length of 4000 kilometers into the interior most parts of the desert. Water was pumped from about 270 wells that are hundreds of meters in depth to the reservoirs using the pipes as the network every pipe is buried at least in seven meters deep trench, after the excavation and removal of about 100,000 cubic meters of soil a day. This process of excavation is made possible through employing the help of an excavator large in size and with a 7.6 cubic meters bucket fitted to it. After a Trench is dug, Cylinder pipes made from Pre-pressed concrete and measuring about 7.5 meters in length and 80 tonnes in weight are ferried by use of about 128 special transporters designed for the job to the site. (

Large Cranes that can lift up to 450 tonnes in weight aid in the placing of pipes in the trenches. The pipes are then pushed into place by use of a Bull Dozer. A rubber ring seal is then used on the joints separating the two pipes. These rubber seals have been installed in a groove at the pipes ends and later the joint is sealed on either side both in and out using a cement grout. The desert surface is later restored by filling in the trench with about 2 meters worth of sand. The pipes are then tested as a final procedure by pumping water through an 8 km length of pipe per test. Adequate time is allowed to the lining in the concrete to sock in enough water then pressurized test is done to both the joints and the pipes in general (

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Why is it the 8th wonder?

The Great Man-Made River Project was referred to as the 8th wonder of the world due to the features it processes since its initiation to date, that includes the amount of Labor, machinery, materials and much more. The wells cover about 800 kilometers squared in area and they are in a network linked by concrete suppressed pipes. These Wells go as deep as 450-650 meters in depth. Its construction required the drilling of Wells that were 960 in number. ( man-made_river _libya.htm).

The project is looked as the 8th wonder of the world’ and also as the world’s single largest construction project. It was entered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1993.This was in relation to the period that was taken for its construction, technology, and equipment used, a number of persons involved and the cost in Dollars incurred.(Guinness Book of Records 1993).

This Great River project is also known as the 8th wonder as it used up about 8kilometers in length of metal that has been carbonized into the wire in its first phase only. It is reported that the amount of wire used if spread out it would be wound around the globe approximately 230 times ( man-made_river _libya.htm).

Another aspect qualifying the project as the 8th wonder is the Water volumes that are in its reservoirs at the Basin in Kufra. One Scholar was noted to have said that the amount of water in this project can be equated to 200 years of the waters following through river Nile. It is also estimated to carry water not less than five million cubic meters daily through the desert to the area around the coast; this has greatly increased the amount of land put under cultivation. The expert also estimates that the amount of water pumped daily through the pipes can fulfill the water needs of the Libyan population for the next 50years and it is estimated to amount to about 6million cubic millimeters. This would mean that every Libyan is entitled to 1000 liters of water daily. ( man-made_river _libya.htm).

The Project is also regarded as the 8th wonder putting in mind the logistical and equipment support at the plant. It is reported that a labor force of people estimated at 10,000 and some 4,500 equipment have been employed on the project ( man-made_river _libya.htm).

Further still, the amount of sand and stones used in this in the pipes manufacture is estimated to be enough to build about 16 Pyramids at Giza in Egypt. The amount of cement used is said to be enough for the construction of a high was that stretches to Bombay (India) from Tripoli (Libya). It is also reported that 2500 tonnes of cement are used daily in the construction. Furthermore the fleet of 127 tankers caring cement from the Cement Company in Libya to Sarir and Brega Pipe plants can be counted daily. ( man-made_river _libya.htm).

Finally, this project qualifies as the 8th wonder when you look at a number of millions of Dollars spent on it. It is estimated that a Whopping 25Billion Dollars have been used on the project not mentioning that not even a single cent of the amount can from international money lending agencies like the IMF and the World Bank. It is a wonder in that Libya has financed this project on her own, a fact that has made the United States of American not to recognize the project as the 8th wonder of the World. ( man-made_river _libya.htm).

Ali Baghdadi is quoted having said the following statement that qualified the project as the 8th wonder “The River is a new lesson and an example in the struggle to achieve self-sufficiency, food security, and true independence. The great river is a triumph against thirst and hunger. It is a defeat against ignorance and backwardness. It reflects the determination of Libyans to resist colonial pressure, to acquire technology, to develop, to improve their lives, and to control their own destiny in accordance with their own free will.


In conclusion, the project that left so many countries astonished with the greatest of them all being the united states of American cost Libya whopping $25Billion to complete. Libya has its head high for having successfully planned, financed, initiated and concluded the project single handily without any financial aid from the world’s renowned money lending institutions. The World Bank, IMF or better still African’s own Development Bank. President Colonel Muammar Al Quaddafi was quoted saying that “this project was the biggest answer to America…who accused them of being concerned with terrorism”. It was perplexing to the European countries how a small country of Libya’s magnitude with it population hardly reaching 4million people, could pull through such a giant project minus any form of financial assistance.

This greatest ever achievement by a small magnitude such as Libya has been helped its citizens boast of a steady supply of fresh water that may sustain then for over a period of 50 years to come. More still despite being one among the countries located in the Arid and Semi-Arid region of African. Libya has risen up above all odds to put make its food security stable through the transformation of the once dry land into arable. It is reported that as l write over 155’000hactares of land have been put and irrigation in Libya. While speaking on the same Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Al Quaddafi in his final speech said this at the project site.”

Pure clean waters hall flow from its natural resources beneath the desert at the southern parts of Jamahiriya, which have been accumulating for thousands of years during the rainy epoch and settled at the rocky layers thanks to this project.

These waters shall, by the will of ALLAH be conveyed in a natural flow from South to North where the fertile agricultural lands. This would make our land as green as the country’s flag”.

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