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Macro-engineering Seawater in Unique Environments

Part of the series Environmental Science and Engineering pp 519-531

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Mapping of the Qattara Depression, Egypt, using SRTM Elevation Data for Possible Hydropower and Climate Change Macro-Projects

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Abstract

The Qattara Depression, which has a nearly triangular shape with a vertex at about 67 km distance from the Mediterranean Sea, is the largest natural closed land depression (19,605 km2) of the Eastern Sahara. It forms the most significant geomorphologic feature in the northern part of Egypt’s Western Desert. The deserted periphery of the depression is taken at the present sea level contour, while the lowest point in the depression is 134 m below mean sea level (b.m.s.l.). The large area of the depression, and the fact that it falls to a depth of 134 m b.m.s.l., has led to several proposals of major hydropower projects, to generate a huge hydroelectric power by conveying seawater from the Mediterranean Sea in an open channel or tunnel (Ball 1933). Recently, there is a serious concern to use the Qattara Depression as a basin to discharge the extra ocean water possibly resulting from Earth’s climate change. The transformation of Qattara Depression into isolated anthropogenic inland sea could provide some ocean level adjustment, as well as generate energy, induce rainfall over some of the adjacent desert, reduce hottest desert daytime and nighttime air temperatures, and permit new local-use fisheries (aquaculture) as well as international tourism resorts. Persons visiting the Aswan High Dam will surely also be drawn to view the proposed seawater canal and the enormous anthropogenic desert seawater lake located so close to Alexandria’s great Library.