Leaving aside the oil sector, two infrastructure projects
have dragged the interest of the Libyan Government and
with it a big bulk of the funds of the development program
budgeted for the next years. We are talking about the
Great Man Made River Project and the Railways project.
The main purpose of the Great Man Made River Project,
the pride and joy of the Al Fatah Revolution is to convey
the underground water of the southeastern and southwestern
desert area in Libya to the coastal area of the Mediterranean
Sea. The project would provide drinking water and water
for agriculture and industries to the Mediterranean
cities and areas along the waterway. The project has
been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records (1993)
with respect to cost, period of construction, number
of personnel involved, equipment and technology used.
Dong Ah, a Korean company, was the main contractor for
the first half of the project, valued at US$ 10.2 billion,
and is in charge of the planning, construction and operation.
The first phase of the project was commissioned in 1990,
and completed in November 1994. The system is able to
supply two million square metres of water per day to
Benghazi, the second-largest city in Libya in the east
half of the Mediterranean coast. The second phase of
the project completed the water supply section for the
main city of Tripoli, and it was finished in September
2000. The pipeline is 1,670km long and 4m in diameter.
Costing $6.16 billion, it will bring 2.5 million tonnes
of water to Tripoli. Another system brings one million
square metres per day to the Jeffara plain has been
The third of the five phases of the project is carrying
a considerable delay due to several reasons, but recent
announcements have shown that the works will start soon:
SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian construction and engineering
company, has been awarded a US$ 310 million contract
to renovate and start up a Great Man Made River pipe
plant at Sarir in south- eastern Libya. The project
is to manufacture 15,000 new pipe sections that will
be used to build the extension pipelines planned for
the third phase. SNC-Lavalin was due to start work in
June 2003 and expects to take 20 months. The company
will also use some of the new pipe sections to repair
parts of the 1,500-km first phase pipeline that runs
from the Sarir and Tazerbo well-fields to Benghazi,
and which have fallen victim to unexpected corrosion.
Meanwhile, Nippon Koei of Japan is reported to be carrying
out preliminary design work for the third phase. Tenders
are expected to be issued in 2004, five years behind
schedule. Nonetheless, with an estimated price tag of
US$ 2 billion for the third phase, foreign contractors
are understandingly eager to get a share of the work.
The final phase would connect the first and second phases,
and there will be installed two power stations to pump
the one million square metres/ day of water. It will
also involve the incorporation of two additional well
fields. There will be a number of reservoirs constructed
that will be refilled in periods of low-water demand.
The delays, construction difficulties and gigantic cost
of the project have raised reasonable doubts about the
efficiency and profitability of the overall project.
Is the water need of the country so huge? Wouldn't several
water desalination plants at a sensibly lower cost satisfy
the water demand?
The questions are recurrent, but the Government goes
ahead with the project, now directed by a former Prime
Minister, and designs its policies accordingly: "We
would like to focus very much in investment projects
using this water, basically agriculture and animal stock
projects. For this sector it has been allocated already
a high percentage of the development funds. For this
reason, we are concluding several agreements with foreign
companies that are interested in investing in these
projects, like for example in the Benghazi plains,"
explains Dr. Baghdadi Mahmudi,
Deputy Secretary General of the General People's Committee
for Production Affairs.
| And finally,
what counts for the Leader of the Revolution, first supporter
of the project, and the Libyan people is the magnificence
of one of the most important engineering constructions
in the world, that has brought abundant fresh water to
a land that since immemorial times has suffered from water
shortages and limited agriculture.
Linking Libya to Africa
The second pharaohnic project, inspired by Col. Gadaffi
himself, is giving an answer to an everlasting problem
in such an big country: transportation and communications
with neighbouring countries. The Railways
project plans to build around 3,170 km. of railway in
two main directions: one starting at the Tunisian border,
in the east, to the Egyptian border in the west, throughout
the coast, which has a length of about 2,100 km. The
other one will extend from Syrte in the north to Sabbah
in the south, throughout the desert, with an approximate
length of about 1,000 km.
This "T" like network has a final aim that
is to play a key role in a big corridor that will connect
Europe with Africa: From Spain to Morocco, Algeria,
Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, etc. "This will
be very useful and profitable, because it will connect
the countries producing raw materials and agriculture
products with the industrialised countries in Europe.
I think this will reduce significantly transportation
costs. It will also connect the entire Arab world, from
Morocco to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries,"
explains Eng. Abdussamad Ali,
chairman of the Committee created to manage the Railways
The Libyan Leader does not hide his keenness on the
project and has reiterated the importance of the proposed
Trans-Saharan railway line, saying it would facilitate
the movement of peoples and goods between countries
bordering the Sahara desert. "We need to catch
up on the time wasted and reduce the distances separating
us," he underlined in one of his speeches, where
he described the project as "strategic"' and
with high priority, at the same level as his multi-billion
project of the Great Man Made River Project.
The construction stage of the Railways project might
take from five to seven years, in words of Eng. Abdussamad
Ali, and the engineering works will be awarded to either
foreign or local companies through a bid process and
following a particular scheme, the Build, Operations
and Transfer (BOT). "This means that we divide
the project in different sections, from one location
to another, one or two thousand kms., and the company
or group of companies can do everything by themselves:
infrastructure, signalisation, station construction,
locomotives, and even the railway management for that
section. The company will benefit from all the revenues
coming from this investment and the property of all
will revert to the Government in let's say 30 or 50
years. This period of time depends on the negotiation,"
explains Eng. Abdussamad Ali.
The question of the profitability in a US$ 10 billion
project is unavoidable, especially when we talk about
a transportation method as classic as the railways in
a country as vast as Libya. Eng. Abdussamad Ali justifies
the magnitude of the project when he says that "we
are not talking only of a commercial investment. This
is a highly strategic project, and not only for Libya,
but for the rest of the world. It is true that we have
an excellent road network (32,000 km.), but the railways
will play an important role in the transport of manufactured
goods and raw materials in a very economic and environment
friendly way. And also will enable bigger trade and
will prevent road deterioration and traffic accidents,"