Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What ingenuity can accomplish

When a country frees its smartest minds to do scientific research instead of killing each other and blowing up civilians, marvelous things can happen. In Israel, scientists have developed ways of freshwater fishing in the desert.
Fish farming in the desert may at first sound like an anomaly, but in Israel over the last decade a scientific hunch has turned into a bustling business.

Scientists here say they realized they were on to something when they found that brackish water drilled from underground desert aquifers hundreds of feet deep could be used to raise warm-water fish. The geothermal water, less than one-tenth as saline as sea water, free of pollutants and a toasty 98 degrees on average, proved an ideal match.
And that's not all.
The next step in this country, where water is scarce and expensive, was to show farmers that they could later use the water in which the fish are raised to irrigate their crops in a system called double usage. The organic waste produced by the cultured fish makes the water especially useful, because it acts as fertilizer for the crops.

Fields watered by brackish water dot Israel’s Negev and Arava Deserts in the south of the country, where they spread out like green blankets against a landscape of sand dunes and rocky outcrops. At Kibbutz Mashabbe Sade in the Negev, the recycled water from the fish ponds is used to irrigate acres of olive and jojoba groves. Elsewhere it is also used for irrigating date palms and alfalfa.
And unselfishly, Israel is sharing this technology with other countries so that they too can get value from their dry lands.
Dry lands cover about 40 percent of the planet, and the people who live on them are often among the poorest in the world. Scientists are working to share the desert aquaculture technology they fine-tuned here with Tanzania, India, Australia and China, among others. (Similar methods of fish farming are also being used in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.)

“Each farm could run itself, which is important in the developing world,” said Alon Tal, a leading Israeli environmental activist who recently organized a conference on desertification, with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Ben-Gurion University, that brought policy makers and scientists from 30 countries to Israel.

“A whole village could adopt such a system,” Dr. Tal added.

At the conference, Gregoire de Kalbermatten, deputy secretary general of the antidesertification group at the United Nations, said, “We need to learn from the resilience of Israel in developing dry lands.”
If Arab nations weren't so dedicated to hating Israel, they too could devote themselves to benefiting their people using Israel's know-how instead of blaming Israel for their own nations' backwardness.