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(Boston) – A visionary plan for a “Desert Development Corridor” in Egypt, researched and created by Boston University geologist Dr. Farouk El-Baz, has been adopted by the country’s interim government as its flagship program. According to El-Baz, the plan – which includes the construction, along 1,200 kilometers, of a new eight-lane superhighway, a railway, a water pipeline, and a power line – would open new land for urban development, commerce, agriculture, tourism and related jobs. It installs new transportation routes to an undeveloped area of desert running parallel to the Nile River Valley and Delta.
The Egyptian-born El-Baz, director of BU’s Center for Remote Sensing, has for decades been researching Egypt’s deserts using satellite imagery and space-age techniques. He had originally proposed the plan to Egypt’s former government in 1985. Following the recent revolution, El-Baz traveled to Egypt to meet with government leaders and the general public to explain the plan that would reinvigorate the country and expand the living space near the banks of the Nile River.
“This project includes opening up a vast strip of Egypt just west of the narrow living area along the Nile that can be utilized in establishing housing communities, expanding agriculture, initiating industrial compounds, and enhancing the potential of tourism,” said El-Baz. “Most importantly, the activity opens up the possibility of a bright future for the young generation. One that is full of new opportunities where they may innovate and excel.”
The Development Corridor plan has been highly popular among young Egyptians, with several university student clubs and six Facebook pages devoted to the project. El-Baz has lectured extensively about the project at Egyptian universities.
El-Baz’s idea has two components: first, an axis composed of a north-south running eight-lane highway, a high-speed train, an electricity line, and a water pipeline for human consumption along the 1,200 kilometer strip of desert; and second, 12 east-west axes that connect large population centers to the north-south corridor.
According to El-Baz, the project would begin with the east-west connectors to ease the pressure on high population density centers and provide immediate job opportunities. He estimates that this phase would take approximately five years to complete. The second period, another five years, would be required to complete the infrastructure of the north-south segment.
El-Baz has suggested to the government that the project be run by an internationally recognized Board of Trustees and initial funding should be sought from bonds to be offered to the Egyptian people – the “owners” of the project, according to El-Baz.
Details of the project have been laid out in El-Baz’s book (Development Corridor: Securing a Better Future for Egypt), published in Cairo in 2007. The book served as the basis for technical evaluation and feasibility studies, the latter indicating that the infrastructure of the project would cost approximately $24 billion.
El-Baz, a veteran of NASA’s Apollo program of lunar exploration, is well-known for his role in the selection of landing sites for the Apollo missions and the training of the astronauts in visual observations and photography. He is a pioneer in applying space images in the fields of geology, geography and archaeology. Under his direction, the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing was selected in 1997 by NASA as a “Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing.”
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.