Water scarcity is an issue in many parts of the world but more so in desert countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This problem has largely been tackled by desalination of seawater, collecting water from springs, rainwater harvesting, imports etc. However, this doesn’t seem to be enough to meet the demands of the ever growing population of the country especially since cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai have proven to be hubs for business and tourism.
UAE has announced an almost unimaginable method of tackling this problem. Towing icebergs from Antarctica! UAE has stated that by 2020, we would be able to see an iceberg on the port of Fujairah, the Emirate which faces the Arabian Sea. They are also trying to patent this invention of towing icebergs as well as reducing the melting rate of the iceberg during the journey from Antarctica to Fujairah. The journey will be an astounding 12,000 km long.
While some environmentalists find this to be problematic; UAE states that it would bring in more rain and also allow much needed greenery to grow. The project is estimated to start this year and it coincides with the Year of Zayed, which is the 100-year birth anniversary of the founder and first President of UAE, H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan. The project is estimated to cost $50-$60 million.
The pilot phase of this project would be to get the iceberg to the coast of Australia or South Africa by 2019. The iceberg is set to reach Fujairah by 2020. On reaching the Emirate of Fujairah the iceberg will be melted to potable water suitable for human consumption and commercial purposes.
UAE also states this project will help other Middle Eastern countries by bringing in more rain and reducing drought in these regions. It’ll also help farming and tourism to flourish in the region. However, the environmental costs of this project are still yet to be seen.
Iceberg towing isn’t a new concept as it is used to move icebergs out of the way oil and gas platforms, however the massive scale of this project is what is surprising. The vessel that would be carrying the iceberg itself would need to be very strong. Some people even say that the build-up of freshwater in the Arabian Sea because of the iceberg, could adversely affect marine animals. How UAE will tackle all these issues can only be seen as the project moves forward.