for National Geographic News
Deep beneath the desert and scrub of northern Darfur, Sudan, lies a vast hidden cache of water, experts said this week.
The newfound aquifer could turn the arid conflict zone into a broad oasis of farms and watering holes, according to Farouk El-Baz, director of Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing.
In April El-Baz's team had announced that they had found signs of a huge ancient lake in Darfur. At that time they had speculated that the long-gone lake's water may be lurking underground.
After further testing, El-Baz said, "we know there's water."
However, "we don't yet know how much," said El-Baz, an Egyptian-born pioneer of using satellite imagery in geological and archaeological research.
El-Baz's team found the underground pool by analyzing infrared, radar, and other images taken by satellites.
Slim Promise of Peace?
Desertification and competition for natural resources are among the underlying causes of the recent Darfur conflict. More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million others chased from their homes during the four-year strife.
So if there is enough water, "it could change the course of events in that region," El-Baz said.
"You could have mechanized farms there to feed and provide training and jobs to the people there."
The Sahara desert's steady creep into Sudan's western region could also be stopped, El-Baz said.
But a French researcher who has also scanned the region using satellite imagery said the underground water is unlikely to be significant.
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