Dragging icebergs from Antarctica to UAE?

Mining for ice, is the latest natural resource and crazy plan concocted by the United Arab Emirates to solve their drinking water shortage. A 2014 UN report dealing with climate change stated that “the worst is yet to come” to countries with chronic to acute water shortages. The report particularly noted that countries in the Arab Gulf region will be acutely affected, despite receiving partial relief from desalination. We see 4 major famines now in Africa, the worst famines since WWII.

Despite this dire message, UAE Emirates like Abu Dhabi and Dubai waste large amounts of water on indoor ski slopes and water parks. The big question is what can be done to bring more fresh water to this region? One idea is to haul icebergs from the earth’s polar regions. If brought to the heat of the UAE it is believed to last 25 years.

The ravages of global warming are now affecting the polar regions, including the continent of Antarctica where hundreds of icebergs are crumbling from Antarctica’s ice shelves every year. Even the forever seed vault is melting in “permafreeze”. So is this a good idea?

With this reality in mind, ideas of harvesting fresh water supplies from these icebergs brings up plans to actually tow some of these icebergs all the way to countries like the UAE. The idea of towing icebergs is nothing new and versions of this “zany idea” go back to the 1800s.

Once the iceberg is in place, the UAE will begin chipping off blocks of the iceberg above the water line and then crushing the pure polar ice into drinking water which would be stored in large water tanks and then filtered through a water processing plant.

Experts on the ground say it will create a mini-climate which could also help with the heat crisis, and become a tourist attraction.

Reports that the UAE is interested in doing this were recently been disclaimed, when the UAE’s Ministry of Energy dismissed reports of plans to tow icebergs to the country from Antartica for drinking water as “mere rumors”.

A plan to undertake such a feat included a  “mapped out route” by Abdullah Mohammad Sulaiman Al Shehi, managing director of Masdar City-based creative consultancy National Advisor Bureau Limited. Reports by the country’s energy ministry now say, however, that such an idea is not feasible. The logistics of such a project, as well as the high costs, make towing an iceberg from, for example, the Ross ice shelf impractical. The distance alone is more than 13,300 km or 7,980 miles.

Other ways to bring water to areas like the Arabian gulf region need to be explored. These might include devices like Israel’s Watergen device that converts water vapor in the air into potable drinking water. A partnership between Watergen and the UAE might even help promote peace in the region as well. Could it ever happen in our lifetime? Let’s ask the wild card Trump?

More Green Prophet articles on water issues:

Climate change “worst is yet to come” UN report warns today
It’s not the tide. It’s not the wind. It’s us
Global Message goes awry at UAE Water Park 

Photo of towing Arctic iceberg from Dessault Systemes 

Photo of an iceberg creation by Angela Seven



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