Imagine a forest, in the Sahara as a remedy for global warming and much more. Does it sound crazy? I understand, in conventional terms it would be more sensible to think about conservation and/ or reforestation of the tropical rainforest, which are threatened by logging and clearance for agriculture, than my captioned subject. Although these conventional recommendations are easier to contemplate they are not straightforward solutions without a challenge. The economic and political reasons that lead to the destruction of the rainforests are among the very challenges that make such recommendations not easy to enforce. I totally concur, however, that preservation, sustainable utilisation and restoration of our planet’s ecosystems is a crucial part of the answer to the puzzle.

Often times thinking out of the box is the reason for many important inventions and or innovation. That is why dreaming about the Sahara Forest as one of the panaceas for global warming can not and should not be disregarded.

You may be imagining the amount of fresh water you will need to forest Sahara desert. You may even be guessing I may be talking about irrigation schemes using the Nile or late Gadaffi’s man made river. No, I am talking about using our planet’s apparently limitless resource, Seawater; creating Mangrove forests using seawater irrigation. In fact it is not just a dream, the work has already begun by the Manzanar project on a small scale and I believe the coming of significantly up scaled programme should be in next to no time.

Mangrove forests naturally occur in the intertidal zone of tropical and subtropical seas and oceans and are among the world’s most productive ecosystems. They are often called as ‘tidal forests’, ‘coastal woodlands’ or ‘oceanic rain forests’.

What are the science, rationale and significance behind the Manzanar project mangrove initiative? You will find the whole answer in the linked paper in which I am a co-author. To give you a brief account:

The science behind is the findings on what is missing in the composition of seawater to grow seawater plants, how to supplement it and the tools and methods to successfully grow the seeds or seedlings in the final designated land. The system can be employed to restore degraded mangrove forests, to grow mangrove forests within the intertidal zones where irrigation is not required and also to grow mangrove forest inland beyond the intertidal zone.

The rationale and significance of the initiative lies in the abundance of seawater (approximately 97.5 % of all the water on the earth), vastness of barren deserts and the impact of such grand ‘viable’ greening schemes to our environmental perils.

If you take my dream about the Sahara forest literally and metaphorically to include all barren deserts with access to Seawater, it is not difficult to imagine the scale of such initiative and the impact it can have to combat climate change.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that this very dream is a dream I share but firstly (that I know of) the dream of my Mentor and unconventional thinker Dr. Gordon H. Sato.


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