Gadhafi’s Man-Made River the Big Prize in Libya War

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CAIRO, Egypt

Libya’s Great Man-Made River -- a $33 billion USD irrigation system built by the country’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, to provide water from a vast underground aquifer in the desert for the country’s densely populated coastal belt -- could become a crucial element in his fight to preserve his embattled regime.

The GMMR, as the project is known, is the crowning glory of Gadhafi’s four decades in power, the showpiece of Libya’s revolution. Gadhafi himself calls it “the eighth wonder of the world.”  

Hailed as a masterpiece of engineering, it provides nearly 5 million cubic meters of water a day to the cities along the Mediterranean coast in northern Libya, where most of the country’s 6.5 million people live.

Libya is one of the driest countries in the world. Only 5 percent of the land gets at least 10 centimeters of rainfall a year.