next 50 years to develop the project. Some ex- increased meat consumption and biofuel pro-
perts question the wisdom of investing such duction are other reasons for the rise in grain
huge amounts in the sands of the Sahara desert prices.
Hunger could cause mass population
where the water simply cannot be replaced movements, especially in sub-Saharan Africa,
due to the meagre rainfall.
Some of the water which could affect North Africa as a point of
pumped at great cost is used for agriculture in transit to destinations in Europe.
The fossil water reserves that
Libya is currently pumping for its consumption In recent decades increasing attention has fo-
were formed under completely different cli- cused on the risks of growing desertification in
matic conditions, some 20 000 years ago. De- the Mediterranean region due to climate change
fenders of the project argue that at the current and human activities. Changing economic pat-
rate of extraction “recoverable reserves would terns, such as fewer people working in agricul-
last for 4 860 years” according to a Libyan ture, have left increasing areas of land untilled,
Libya also argues that the project has which also contributes to desertification.
developed engineering know-how not previ-
ously available. Initially the project depended Mediterranean desertification has recently
almost entirely on foreign companies, whereas been identified as a security threat “on an in-
up to 70 per cent of the necessary products are ternational scale”,
considering that environ-
now made locally. mental changes combined with demographic
differences between northern and southern
The outlook is equally bleak for farm produce Mediterranean countries could lead to new
and prices. A recent UNEP report stresses that migration waves and ultimately disturb the
without a green revolution the world’s popula- existing political order. Desertification could
tion is heading for a major food crisis. The re- cause major population movements, especially
port notes that a century long fall in food prices in poorer regions of Africa. According to a UN
seems to have ended. It forecasts an up to 50 study, there could be as many as 135 million
per cent rise in food prices in just a few decades. refugees by 2020. Potentially some 60 million
Moreover, by 2050 current agricultural output people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa
could fall by up to a quarter because of environ- to North Africa or Europe.
This could increase
mental impacts such as water scarcity and land stress over resources such as water and arable
degradation. Speculation in agricultural prices, land in a Mediterranean area itself.