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Icebergs could meet region's fresh water supply needs

Icebergs could provide untapped quantities of pure water to satisfy the thirst of the Middle East by creating an alternative to desalination without the generation of air or marine pollution.

Image Credit:Bloomberg News
A Russian scientist believes icebergs could provide untapped quantities of pure water for the Middle East and thus create an environmentally friendly alternative to desalination.
Gulf News


Dubai: Icebergs could provide untapped quantities of pure water to satisfy the thirst of the Middle East by creating an alternative to desalination without the generation of air or marine pollution, according to Russian researchers. The researchers hope their project will provide a solution to water scarcity in the region.

Hamid Khalidov, a Russian scientist and his representative in the UAE, Kudret Efendiev, a doctor of physics working at Sharjah International School, have been promoting the theory of capturing 'alive water' from the North Pole for over a decade. So far the project, which would demand an investment of $2 billion (Dh7.34 billion), remains a theory.

However, Khalidov has outlined five methods of capturing water from icebergs. These include towing them from the North Pole, Alaska or Greenland to the coast of Saudi Arabia - where plants will be built to receive the mammoth chunks of ice.

Other methods include the extraction of liquid water on site, the transportation of fine pieces of ice or the transportation of large blocks of ice, cut out from the iceberg and which will weigh many tonnes.

The most feasible method involved transporting smaller, whole icebergs rather than bigger ones. This was outlined in a paper published in the Aqua Journal of Water Supply Services and Technology in 1998.

Khalidov said "an iceberg, six-sevenths of which remains submerged, and which floats 10 to 12 km a day, can overturn 5-6 times during its lifetime& After every overturning of an iceberg, each new installation of tow cables would require an unacceptable cost in time and labour to correct."

Around $2 billion would be required to complete the project in two years. Factors to consider include special boats, a special mooring facility and stationary ice-receivers. Containers and equipment for the project would also have to be manufactured.

The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps of the Earth. It covers about 98 per cent of the Antarctic continent and is the largest single mass of ice on the planet. It covers an area of almost 14 million square kilometres and contains 30 million cubic kilometres of ice. That is, approximately 61 per cent of all fresh water on the Earth - an amount equivalent to 70 per cent of the volume of the world's oceans.

"The removal of one cubic kilometre of ice [from a shelf glacier in the Antarctic continent] is of little consequence - particularly if one considers the benefits to the life and health of millions of people," Khalidov said.

Mohammad Raouf, the programme manager for environment research at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre, said he had heard of the idea.

However, he added that the environmental impact would outweigh the potential gain of accessing fresh water supplies.

"I think technically it is feasible. But if you take into account the costs and the environmental damage, it might not be. I believe it will remain one of the solutions - in case a real need emerges such as severe water shortage problem," he said.

The legal aspects of transporting ice would also be very complicated, he said.

"Ecologically, which is more important, if countries race to get this, we will cause another imbalanced situation in these locations. [The] cost is still very high at $2 billion without taking into consideration ecological costs and water loss costs [such as melting]," he said.

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Your comments

Good idea... If possible....
From A Reader
Posted: August 10, 2009, 17:25

This initiative would be one of the great vision of HH Shaikh Mohammed. Persons say iceberg in Dubai it unfeasible but who also say it dream once of Palm in Island or tallest tower Burj Dubai in desert? It is a dream for me and for the UAE people.
Posted: August 10, 2009, 14:53

As the leading species on earth, we have managed to pollute and weaken the earth's atmosphere. Then we started drilling and making holes everywhere. Not to mention, in the name of technology we have claimed the space as our open junkyard.And now we are after the ICEBERGS!!!!
Posted: August 10, 2009, 14:37

Why not treat the sewerage and recycle the water? Take the excess and charge the underground aquifers. Better yet, fix all the leaky faucets and get rid of bath tubs. Invest in solar energy for heat source for de-sal plants. Wind screens to capture the humidity, large black membranes in the desert to evaporate seawater, etc etc.
Bubba HoTep
Posted: August 10, 2009, 14:33

The idea sounds good. But there should be a limit for the volume of icebergs being consumed. If this goes out of limit there will be serious ecological imbalance.
Mohammad Faisal
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: August 10, 2009, 14:14

Not a wise idea. Conserve the water now rather than bringing it from some far off places. UAE should start practicing suystematic water supply for the residential, comercial
Posted: August 10, 2009, 13:15

i think this study is totally wrong and have not considered the impact of the ecological diversity of nature.if this would be realized, they should also think that they would be cutting icebergs in commercial doses and what could be the effect on this on our climate , we should also be aware that the Icebergs are now melting due to Global Warming.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: August 10, 2009, 11:34

Already the World is facing global warming issues and temperature increase problems every year due to melting of icebergs. How can we think of further worsening the situation? Do we have any other place to go for living????
J. P.
Posted: August 10, 2009, 11:23

I feel very funny about the idea, it will be a disaster to the Environment. My dear Scientist, Please dont add to the misfortune our Mother Earth is suffering.
Posted: August 10, 2009, 11:22

"The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the two polar ice caps of the Earth" If u remove the cap it gradually affect UR health.
Mathew CJ
Posted: August 10, 2009, 10:08

The theory is interesting, but financials involved are multifolds which if implemented ever will never be a cost effective solution and utlimatly consumer will be under the dent.
Jamal Shamsit
Posted: August 10, 2009, 09:40

Same kind of idea was floated somewhere in 1970s for the same region i.e Middle East, but was overwhelmingly rejected due to the same reasons that it would cause an ecological disaster. I dont understand how will the scientist cope with the situation now. Or the exercise is being revised to gain popularity.
Fayyaz A. Chaudhry
Posted: August 10, 2009, 09:09

Qutub Al Deen
Posted: August 10, 2009, 08:54

For this option to be even considered as feasible by anyone I think merely outlines their ignorance on the current environmental climate. I am gobsmacked.
Malcolm Todd
Posted: August 10, 2009, 08:54

We just want to hog on every thing that is available on earth, for God's sake don't loot earth like this and do not fan this crazy idea which would be an ecological catastrophe!
Posted: August 10, 2009, 08:45

I don't think this is a good idea, as it is because of global warming the whole world is being affected. Now with this idea you will add to disaster. Such a move should not happen. please use some logic
Posted: August 10, 2009, 08:36

WITH THE developments in technology any thing is possible in the world now. But these are imaginations that to bring ice bergs as finacially it seems very un approachable. Presently in GCC the condition of water is not so good but even this is managable if the water use is rationalized properly. I think cutting ice and its mining would create an imbalance in nature as well it would be a disaster to the ecology of the antarctica, because only the less exposed area to humanbeing is north and south poles. It would be more wise to protect these wonders of world for our next generations.
Rehan Yousuf
Posted: August 10, 2009, 07:34

I think this much worse than chopping all the trees in an vast areas of land. We have already damaged the Ozone layer for our (human) benifits. The new thought of Icebergs will be a direct blow on nature for sure. we should never think of such ideas.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: August 10, 2009, 06:54

Fresh water from icebergs - is a serious threat to environment. We dont think that many things are global. Air pollution - is global; Sea Pollution is global; Like releasing of CFC in air affects the whole earth. Not a particular country or region. Please understand 'Planet Earth is our only home'. Easter Island is Dead but is a living example of environmental damages. For gulf regions, grace of God, we have sun shine plenty, that too, cloudless!! and deserted land on the other side. miles of coast land!! We are not land locked. Why cant we tap the potential of solar power to desalinate the sea water? I beleive, if it is tapped, GCC would become self sufficient in many things including agriculture
Posted: August 10, 2009, 06:29

We shouldn't be fooled by this ideas, this is what they think. Again, repeated the 25 years ago Saudi initiative in pulling iceberg from Antarctica. And its surprising me Gulf News publishing such ideas. Come on people wake up please.
Don Moorree
Posted: August 10, 2009, 03:45

i'm pretty sure i read this in a science fiction book many years ago, and this is where it should stay - arguably one of the weirdiest things i have ever heard of.
Posted: August 10, 2009, 02:52

I do not think this is an environmentally sound idea at all. First, there is the problem of reducing the ice sheet to the correct size. Second, there is the problem of transporting the ice. Third is the problem of building new infrastructure to process the ice. All of these factors will contribute massive amounts of pollution and Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere. Finally, once the melt water has been used, it will only end up in the ocean anyway, and will do nothing to mitigate rising sea levels which are a problem associated with global warming.
Daniel C-B
Posted: August 10, 2009, 01:51