Water is a prime concern for the Libyan researcher and academic Mubaraka Saad Alghariani, who uses modern technologies like remote sensing and geographic information systems to monitor and seek solutions for climate-change and environmental problems in her country.
“Libya’s most urgent problem is the management of water resources, rather than water scarcity,” she says. “It has a large reserve of groundwater, but our people have a problem managing this water, in addition to the problem of rationalising agricultural consumption of water.”
Alghariani is currently working with the Libyan Authority for Scientific Research as a hydrologist and water resources management specialist.
In an interview with Al-Fanar Media via Zoom, she recommended expanding the use of modern technologies, especially remote sensing techniques and geographic information systems (GIS), in monitoring the effects of different land uses and environmental changes. She also called for more encouragement and support for women in science, to prepare them to work in such specialised fields.
Focus on Climate and Environment
“Libya’s most urgent problem is the management of water resources, rather than water scarcity. It has a large reserve of groundwater, but our people have a problem managing this water, in addition to the problem of rationalising agricultural consumption of water.”Mubaraka Saad Alghariani, a Libyan hydrologist and water resources management specialist
Alghariani believes that the climate and environmental problems facing her country should be top priorities for the government and international agencies. She warns that these problems could escalate into disasters and increase the suffering of the Libyan people.
She advocates modern tools like remote sensing and geographic information systems because they “are the least expensive, fastest, and offer the widest coverage in terms of area. We need to work on building an integrated geographic information system for comprehensive development in the area under monitoring and research.”
In her own research, Alghariani says remote sensing and GIS applications have helped her analyse environmental phenomena more quickly and with greater precision than traditional tools would allow.
She has used these technologies to identify areas where groundwater resources are most vulnerable to chemical pollution and saltwater intrusion. She has also used these tools in mineral exploration, and to study the negative impact of urban expansion in Tripoli on agricultural lands’ decline and the deterioration of vegetation cover.
Alghariani obtained a bachelor’s degree in water resources management from the University of Tripoli’s Faculty of Agriculture in 2009, and a master’s degree in dams and water resources management in 2014. She is currently working on a Ph.D. in the same specialty from her alma mater.
She has taught in several Libyan universities and has worked with a number of government research agencies, such as the Ministry of Agriculture’s Soil and Water Analysis Laboratory. She also headed the Water Research Laboratory in the Municipality of Tripoli in 2020.
Water Problems in Libya
In recent years, water issues have topped Alghariani’s research interests. She has published a number of scientific papers on topics like water loss from lakes due to evaporation, as well as possible mechanisms to reduce such losses and to maintain the natural balance of the region’s groundwater.
She presented one paper, “Reducing Evaporation Losses from the Wadi Kaam Dam Lake by Artificial Feeding,” during the Third Arab Water Conference, held in Kuwait in 2018. In this research, Alghariani found that 40 percent of the lake’s annual storage volume, obtained from the surface runoff of rainwater, was lost through evaporation. The paper studied the possibility of injecting rainwater collected during the rainy and flood season into the underground reservoir and re-pumping it during the dry season to support agricultural needs.
“International institutions and government agencies should work to overcome the obstacles facing women in scientific research. They need to support them through specialised training courses in rare fields of scientific research.”Mubaraka Saad Alghariani
In her doctoral research, Alghariani is studying alternative sources for recharging coastal aquifers to confront problems caused by their over-exploitation and lower rainfall due to climate change.
“When the rate of withdrawal exceeds the rate of natural recharge, the depletion of the aquifer occurs, along with a reverse flow of seawater, as is happening now,” she said. “This pollutes aquifers. The solution is to recharge aquifers with water from a variety of sources.”
In addition to her interest in water issues, Alghariani has also used remote sensing and GIS technologies to detect areas that may hold deposits of valuable minerals and metals, such as gold.
A 2020 paper, “Applications of Remote Sensing for Exploration of Mineral Deposits and Gold in Jabal Arkenu,“ describes how she used these tools to produce maps showing the probability of the presence of gold and minerals in the study region, in southeastern Libya..
“Geophysical survey and chemical analysis is the best proof for the existence of this precious metal,” she said. “Geological studies using remote sensing show the importance of spectral ratios technology in the early stage of mineral exploration. The expansion of the use of such applications will help the country to enhance its financial resources.”
Supporting Women in Science
Alghariani hopes to conduct more research on environmental issues, which have become a major threat to many natural resources necessary for the inhabitants of Libyan cities.
She also hopes to see more encouragement of girls and young women to engage in research on highly specialised topics.
Many Libyan women are qualified to work in scientific research on climate and environmental issues, she said, but they lack guidance, counselling, and encouragement. She called for policies that facilitate ways for them to be engaged in research institutions.
“International institutions and government agencies should work to overcome the obstacles facing women in scientific research,” she said. “They need to support them through specialised training courses in rare fields of scientific research.”
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