Last updated: 14 july, 2009 - 15:24 GMT

Environment

The Greening of the Deserts

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Global leaders will meet at the next UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Top of the agenda will be discussions around an agreement on international standards for fighting global warming.

Another key item on the agenda is trying to reach a better understanding of what’s happening to the world’s climate.

Many scenarios of global warming in Africa include more drought, floods, land degradation, epidemics and resource wars.

But some scientists and meteorologists now argue that some deserts – including the Sahara, one of the most arid areas on earth - could ultimately get greener and experience more rainfall.

Ayisha Yahya, a Tanzanian, explores the arguments in a three part series recorded on location in Mali, Namibia and Egypt.

Egypt's White Desert

Programme Three:
In Egypt scientists are experimenting with high-tech techniques to make the desert bloom.

Boston University's Farouk El-Baz has successfully used satellite imaging. His aim is to find ancient groundwater in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East.

Farouk's radar exploration of the Egyptian Sahara eventually resulted in the drilling of about 500 new wells, all of which are still pumping water today. About 100,000 acres of Saharan desert have been cultivated in this area.

The Egyptian government is keen to encourage people to move to the desert. They want to press ahead with a controversial plan to reclaim a further 3.4 million acres of desert over the next 10 years.

Ayisha Yahaya asks, is this plan practical or sustainable or might it ultimately backfire?

First broadcast on Wednesday 15 July 2009

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