Deserts And Desalinization Of Sea Water

Deserts are still an unutilized natural resource for mankind. Now, as existing natural resources face increasing pressure to cater to ever increasing human population on this planet, visionaries look at the deserts as a solution for last resort, but that needs water, which can come only by way of desalinization of sea water.
Deserts and Desalinization of Sea Water
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANellis_AFB_Solar_panels.jpg)

On one hand, the humanity is faced with a severe impending crisi in the form of ever worsening global warming and climate change, and on the other, there is a scarcity of both food and water. With an urgent need to exapnd agriculture to new arid zones while avoiding deforestation, the option of reclaiming and utilising deserts is irresistible. The big question, however, is whether it is viable? It is from this perspective that deserts and desalinization of sea water is one of our greatest hopes in the fight against climate change and global warming.

Deserts and Global Warming

The primary reason

for global warming is the trapping of heat by green house gases, most of which are a result of carbon released from burning of fossil fuel. As the levels of green house gases rise, we need ways to not only reduce the release of green house gases, but also find ways and means to fix some of the carbon already released into the atmosphere. Till now, we are totally dependent upon our forests to fix carbon. The forest cover around the globe is under threat. There is very little scope of increasing the forest cover further.

In such a scenario, deserts hold the only hope for increasing forest cover. Alternatively, their utilization for agriculture can save precious land from deforestation. Either way, it can be that one large step in our fight with climate change, which we have been desperately waiting for.

Afforestation of Deserts as our only Hope

Deserts are the only areas of land that are available for new growth of forests, but to grow forests requires water that does not exist in the deserts. With water from conventional sources becoming a scarce commodity that is already in short supply, all hopes of afforestation of deserts lie today with the desalinization of sea water.

As on date, desalinization is still a process that is a little too costly for irrigation, particularly of the deserts. Yet, with no other way in sight, we need to find ways of utilising it. Desalinization requires energy, and the best source of that energy would be the Sun. We need to find ways to make use of solar energy to desalinize and transport water from the nearby oceans to the

deserts. Even after this near impossible task is fulfilled, a lot more would need to be done. Only very selective plantations can survive in the deserts. Moreover, to create a layer of carbon and other nutrients requires enormous dumping of organic matter. Given the large scales of land that need to be targeted, a carefully strategy of selectively afforesting the deserts from the periphery will need to be followed. Begin with specialised arid plantation, use dripping methods, and gradually eat into the desert.

Harnessing Solar Energy and Deserts

So far, we have been unable to harness solar energy to the optimum levels. However, technological improvements are bringing about a gradual fall in its cost. On the other hand, the rising cost of gas makes solar energy a viable commodity. As the feasibility of common use of solar energy grows, more efforts will be made to improve the technology, and as mass production takes over, the costs are bound to fall. The day when using solar energy will be only form of energy harnessed is still far away, but its use may become feasible in very foreseeable future.

The Good News: The rising viability of Solar Energy

The good news is that in 2017, the cost of solar energy has come down to a viable level. The vast deserts with little clouds generally provide a large catchment area for sunshine, providing enormous opportunity of harvesting solar energy in the deserts, which can then be utilized for desalination of sea water and its transport from the sea to the deserts. The opportunity of using this energy for industry also opens up the possibility of greater habitation of the deserts, which can itself be a strong stimulus for changing desert climate to a greener one.

The challenges are enormous. The road is long and arduous. But where there is a will, there is a way. Maybe, the threat of global warming and climate change will become an opportunity for the afforestation of our deserts.
 



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