In the face of depleting drinking water levels, the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made a controversial decision: to transport an iceberg from Antarctica to the nation’s eastern coast.
The shrinking groundwater reserves and the excessive use of this precious resource in the country caused the lack of fresh water—an average person in the UAE uses about 500 litres of water per day, which is roughly twice the global average.
“All fresh water in the Gulf has been minimised significantly,” said Dr Mohammed Dawoud, manager of the water resources department at the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD).
Furthermore, the UAE’s method of obtaining drinking water through desalination, which filters out salt and harmful bacteria from seawater, is creating problems for the Gulf region, as the desalination plants are dumping the brine that they produce back into the sea, causing extreme levels of salt in the water. The iceberg would dilate the water.
Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi, the managing director of the National Advisor Bureau Limited, which will handle water processing, said, “Blocks will be chipped off the iceberg above the waterline and then crushed into water, before being stored in large tanks and filtered through a water processing plant.” He added, “This is the purest water in the world.”
The iceberg would not only bring much-needed drinking water, but would also draw in rain to the arid landscape. “It would create a vortex which would draw clouds from all over the region,” Al Shehi claimed. He contended that when the icebergs come into contact with the hot region air, “cold air gushing out from an iceberg close to the shores of the Arabian Sea would cause a trough and rainstorms across the Arabian Gulf and the southern region of the Arabian Peninsula all year round”.
However, Al Shehi also has another motive for pursuing this extraordinary project: tourism. The [towing of an iceberg] will attract many spectators from around the country, making it a one-of-a-kind gathering,” his company said.
The project is estimated to start in early 2018. The iceberg will be taken from Heard Island, around 600 miles (1000 kilometres) off mainland Antarctica’s coast. It will then be transported along the 5,500 mile (8,800 km) journey to Fujairah, one of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.
By Damla Ozdemir ’19