NATO bombs the Great Man-Made River

July 27, 2011 — 70 Comments

The Great Man-Made River

It is a war crime to attack essential civilian infrastructure. 95% of Libya is desert and 70% of Libyans depend on water which is piped in from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System under the southern desert. The water pipe infrastructure is probably the most essential civilian infrastructure in Libya. Key to its continued function, particularly in time of war, is the Brega pipe factory which enables leaks and breaks in the system to be repaired.

NATO has admitted that its jets attacked the pipe factory on 22 July, claiming in justification that it was used as a military storage facility and rockets were launched from there.

The Great Man-Made River

Libyans like to call the Great Man-Made River “The eighth wonder of the world”.

According to a March 2006 report by the BBC  the industrialisation of Libya following the Great Al-Fatah Revolution in 1969, put strain on water supplies and coastal aquifers became contaminated with sea water, to such an extent that the water in Benghazi was undrinkable. Finding a supply of fresh, clean water became a government priority and fortunately oil exploration in the 1950s had revealed vast aquifers beneath Libya’s southern desert.

In August 1984, Muammar Al Qadhafi laid the foundation stone for the pipe production plant at Brega. The Great Man-Made River Project had begun. Adam Kuwairi, a senior figure in the Great Man-Made River Authority (GMRA), vividly remembers the impact the fresh water had on him and his family:

“The water changed lives. For the first time in our history, there was water in the tap for washing, shaving and showering. The quality of life is better now, and it’s impacting on the whole country.”

On 3 April  Libya warned that NATO-led air strikes could cause a “human and environmental disaster” if air strikes damaged the Great Man-Made River project.

Engineer and project manager Abdelmajid Gahoud told foreign journalists in Tripoli:

If part of the infrastructure is damaged, the whole thing is affected and the massive escape of water could cause a catastrophe,” leaving 4.5 million thirsty Libyans deprived of drinking water.

The Brega Pipe-Making Plant

The Pre-Stressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe Factory at Brega is one of only two such facilities in Libya – the other being at Sarir to the east. This makes it a very important component of the Great Man-Made River - with two production lines making up to 80 pipes a day.

According to the BBC:

The engineer in charge of the Brega pipe factory is Ali Ibrahim. He is proud that Libyans are now running the factory:

“At first, we had to rely on foreign-owned companies to do the work. But now it’s government policy to involve Libyans in the project. Libyans are gaining experience and know-how, and now more than 70% of the manufacturing is done by Libyans. With time, we hope we can decrease the foreign percentage from 30% to 10%.”

As a result, Libya is now a world leader in hydrological engineering and it wants to export its expertise to other African and Middle-Eastern countries facing similar problems with their water.

According to the official web site of the Great Man-Made River Authority:

Approximately 500,000 pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes have been manufactured to date. Approximately 500,000 pipes transported to date. Pipe transportation is continuous process  and the work goes on day and night, distance traveled by the transporters is equivalent to the sun and back. Over 3,700 km of haul roads  was constructed alongside the pipe line trench to enable the heavy truck – trailers to deliver pipe to the installation site.

NATO Attack

On 22 July NATO warplanes attacked the pipe making plant at Brega killing six of the facility’s security guards:

As you can see from Google Earth the 100s of pipes at this facility, out in the desert south of Brega, make it clear, even from the air, that this is a pipe-production plant:

Video footage shows a major building within the plant has been destroyed and there is also damage to at least one of the trucks which is used to transport pipes to places where repairs are required:

According to AP, Abdel-Hakim el-Shwehdy, head  of the company running the project, said:

“Major parts of the plant have been damaged. There could be major setback for the future  projects.”

Water supply to Brega Cut

On Monday 18 July rebel spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told AFP that remnants of Gadhafi’s troops were holed up among industrial facilities in Brega with supplies dwindling.

“Their food and water supplies are cut and they now will not be able to sleep.”

Given the rebel boasts that the pro-Gadaffi forces in Brega had no water, the question has to be posed whether this attack was a deliberate attempt to prevent repair of the pipeline into Brega.

NATO Response

In response to HRI enquiry, NATO press office said:

We can confirm that we targeted Brega on July 22nd and we stroke successfully: one military storage facility and four armed vehicles.”

HRI requested clarification:

The building you hit (apparently in the Brega pipe factory) was being used for what kind of military storage?

What considerations were taken into account to ensure that the strikes did not damage civilian infrastructure or was damage to the civilian infrastructure considered legitimate?

Given the potential consequences to civilians of damage to the pipe factory and the ability of the engineers to be able to repair broken water pipelines I hope you will appreciate the importance of these questions.

At the 26th July at the NATO press conference in Naples  Colonel Rolond Lavoie, neglecting to inform the assembled journalists that the “concrete factory” plays an important role in preserving Libya’s water supply, said:

Now in the area of Brega, NATO strikes included armoured vehicles, rocket launchers, military storage facilities and a repurposed concrete factory from which Pro-Gaddafi forces were using multi-viral [sic] rocket launchers, exposing the population to indirect fire.

Let me show you some intelligence pictures that illustrate what we have observed at this concrete factory. By the way these pictures will be made available on the NATO site so it will be possible for the media can download them

So basically repeatedly over the last few weeks we got clear intelligence indicating that pro-Gadaffi forces are using this factory for military purposes. This factory is being used to hide military material including Multiple Rocket Launchers. These weapons have been used every day from within this factory compound and then carefully hidden after the day within or along massive pipes you can see in this picture.

Slide 1 20 July

Slide 2 23 July

Slide 1 20 July apparently shows a BM-21 rocket launcher -a model of rocket launcher widely used by both loyalist and rebel forces in Libya.

Slide 2 23 July apparently shows a BM-21 rocket launcher. The slide shows black smoke in the centre of the picture which suggests two hits (possibly on vehicles) have already been made, with the BM-21 left intact.

Neither slide appears to show the building which was destroyed in the video or helps to understand when or why that was hit. So the photos lead to more questions than they answer – clearly the BM-21, spotted on the 20th, was not considered a priority target, and there is nothing in the NATO explanation which explains why the water supplies of the Libyan people have now been put at such risk.

On 27th July further enquiries by HRI elicited the additional information that

The factory is being used to hide military material, including multiple rocket launchers. These weapons have been used every day from within this factory compound and then carefully hidden after the day within the factory buildings and the area. 

and

All sites that could be used by the pro-Qadhafi regime forces to threaten or attack civilians can be considered as a legitimate target by NATO in full accordance with UNSCR 1973. That resolution mandates the use of all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya from attack or threat of attacks.

According to the NATO press office, the attack was within the rules of engagement agreed upon by all 28 countries in the coalition by consensus. It seems unlikely that the rules of engagement would allow this attack or that the states in the Security Council would agree that a devious interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 should supercede international humanitarian law.

NATO have failed to provide answers to the following questions:

  • Do you have any concrete evidence that rockets were fired from inside the pipe-making plant?
  • Can you explain the precise targeting and timing of strikes within this facility?
  •  What steps were taken to ensure collateral damage to the facility was avoided?
  • What alternatives were considered to military strikes on this factory?

Applicable humanitarian law

The Laws of War were designed to prevent attacks on targets indispensible to the civilian population, so attacking a civilian infrastructure target such as this plant is a war crime.

Even if rockets were being fired from within the location (for which no evidence has been produced) or this facility was being used for military storage by Gadaffi forces, or housed armoured vehicles, attacking the pipe-making factory in a way that leaves it severely damaged is illegal as this facility is important to the water supplies of Libyan civilians.

The citing of UNSCR 1973 does not supercede the need for NATO forces to obey the laws of war.

Applicable humanitarian law includes (inter alia):

Rule 15. In the conduct of military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. [IAC/NIAC]

Rule 16. Each party to the conflict must do everything feasible to verify that targets are military objectives. [IAC/NIAC]

Rule 17. Each party to the conflict must take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods of warfare with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects. [IAC/NIAC]

Rule 18. Each party to the conflict must do everything feasible to assess whether the attack may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. [IAC/NIAC]

Rule 54. Attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population is prohibited.

Human Rights Investigations demands:

1) The immediate cessation of the bombing campaign by NATO which is putting Libyan civilians in mortal danger

2) A peace congress be convened to bring this conflict to a rapid end.

70 responses to NATO bombs the Great Man-Made River

  1. 

    Who is currently in control of Brega? What is happening there?

  2. 

    NATO is still bombing Brega (26th), so one presumes the loyalists are still there. The precise situation is described by NATO as fluid.

  3. 

    Update today to add information about 3rd April Libyan warning of humanitarian disaster if the GMMR was attacked.

  4. 

    Here we have a first class bungled operation. Would it not have been better to offer the bloke safe passage to a country of his choice? Zillions of munitions have been used up, hundreds of people have been killed and the infrastructure has been severely damaged. Some will claim that wars don’t cost anything because all the ammo has a best-by date and needs to be used up. This is a very bad attitude. Incidentally there is another infamous dictator in Africa but nothing is done about him because he hasn’t got any oil. .

  5. 

    Disgusting – brought to you by the man who promised “Hope and Change”. Support the Troops? Not when they do this.

  6. 

    Water supply good for a thousand years,now there is a good reson to throw the bum out,now lets just get along,we got oil too,hey there is big money to be made.

  7. 

    The more I read and become informed about what is happening to Libya makes me feel disgusted at Obama and Hillary. I voted for Obama and he has lost my vote I don’t care what color he is. Race does not matter. Obama has no vision for America. No matter how evil Qaddafi has been portrayed by the media and our leaders he had more vision for his people and his country and the African continent. To even consider this idea of a man made river is so significant. To have the will and use Libya’s oil wealth to fund such a costly project is a miracle. Where is the will to move this country forward? Why don’t the 1% in this country use their wealth to get this country working again? have our schools become world class? provide health care to all?
    Seems to me these 1 percenters could take a lesson or two from colonel Qaddafi. Evil as he was he did some good.
    Now Libya lies in ruins, decaying bodies, collapsed schools and hospitals and a threatened man made river! This is an OBAMINATION! for sure.

  8. 

    de como se aplica a ‘R2P’, a ‘responsabilidade de proteger’ …

  9. 

    The suffering is so immense and the world continues laughing….

  10. 

    Facts you probably do not know about Libya under Muammar Gaddafi:
    • There are no electricity bills in Libya; electricity was free … for all its citizens.
    • No interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.
    • If a Libyan is unable to find employment after graduation, the state pays the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.
    • Should Libyans want to take up a farming career, they receive farm land, a house, equipment, seed and livestock to kick start their farms – all for free.
    • A home considered a human right in Libya.. Every citizen of Libya is guaranteed a home (In Qaddafi’s Green Book it states: “The house is a basic need of both the individual and the family, therefore it should not be owned by others.”)
    • All newlyweds in Libya receive 60,000 Dinar (US$ 50,000 ) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start a family.
    • A portion of Libyan oil sales is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.
    • A mother who gives birth to a child receives US $5,000.
    • When a Libyan buys a car, the government subsidizes 50% of the price.
    • The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter. (approximately 53 cents a gallon)
    • For $ 0.15, a Libyan local can purchase 40 loaves of bread.
    • Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Libya can boast one of the finest health care systems in the Arab and African World. All people have access to doctors, hospitals, clinics and medicines, completely free of charge.
    • If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government funds them to go abroad for it – not only free but they get US $2,300/month accommodation and car allowance.
    • 25% of Libyans have a university degree. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans were literate. Today the figure is 87%.
    • Libya has no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion – though much of this is now frozen globally.

    This was all under this so called evil dictators rule… Do your own research, use your own logic, and form your own opinions… Why is that you barely see or hear about, or know of, any Libyan immigrants here in the U.S….? Because the standard of living in Libya has been better than in the U.S, for a long time… Where are all the Libyan refugees seeking asylum from their crazy dictator?
    In Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and Rwanda, the people cried and begged for U.S intervention against genocide being waged by puppet dictators, rebel movements, etc… Where is NATO and the U.S when you need em? Plotting on bringing down someone who doesnt need em.

    • 

      Where did you get this info?

      • 

        this is not top secret information… its just ‘suppressed ‘ by the western media, and news channels that are under western influence… for the rest of the world, this has been common knowledge… Why do you think you find people from all over Africa and the Middle east immigrating TO Libya, but its hard to find a wide spread Libyan immigrant population in the U,S, or anywhere or that matter…?
        The media that was painting Gaddafi as an evil dictator is the same media that was telling us that saddam had 10 ‘confirmed’ wmd ‘sites’ , citing sources that did not exist.
        as far as where i found this info, it is all over the internet, and even presented by news stations all over the world.. including a few independant journalists from the U.S and U.K… not to mention i have read numerous blogs from independant journalists, Libyan citizens and African leaders who didnt even support Gaddafi but recognized his efforts and triumphs as a leader,..
        Just google “benefits of living in Libya” and im sure anyone with an open and working mind should be able to filter the bs from the facts..

    • 

      Hi blaccjacc, you are blessed having said all these . After reading your pieces I understood quite well that you were there . I live there for 8 years, it’s one of the peaceful place I had seen under the reign of Gaddafi. Libyans are fools having been brainwashed by the west. I engaged my wife one day about that part of the world , how lively it was , she regretted why she never visited when I wanted her to. A lot of them are here in china doing rubbish , engaging in immoral night life and odds. Those Gaddafi things were made easy for them. Every Libyan to me was a prince under the reign of Gaddafi . May God help the Libyans of now. They neglected the “gold ” they had ! Now it has been taken away from them , I do not think they can find it again.

  11. 

    We can’t understand why western behaved like this..and destroyed this country stand on it’s own strength. It was said the Lybia was a ruled by a dictator infact it was.. but despite 95% the country is desert there was no other country like Lybia that looksafter it’s people.
    All these attacks on countries like Lybia says the insanity of the western and the jealousy on the countries that rise alone without western’s assistance.

    It’s not worthy to destroy a desert rose like this…

  12. 

    There is collective disgust directed at Russia for having destroyed the system of aqueducts which supply the Afghan people. What will be the global reaction to the countries which hide behind the “NATO” flag while they destroy the eigth wonder of the world and cause untold suffering? Let’s allow the Western media to lead the charge

    • 

      There is collective disgust directed at Russia for having destroyed the system of aqueducts which supply the Afghan people. – that is a BOGUS statement, Daniel Cotter. First of all, it was Soviet Union, not Russia. Second of all, the aqueducts you are referring to – were 20 kilometers worth of water supplies. We are speaking of 1,000′s of miles of water supply lines in Libya. So, your comparison is BOGUS.

      “Let’s allow the Western media to lead the charge” – Not sure about this one. Are you THAT moronic to propose such notion? It has been “allowed” for decades to brainwash masses into dupe.

      All that considering the fact that your comment came at 02 of 2013.

      “Lead the change?” Take it easy on that cool-aid of yours…

      It is horrific to witness what Libya has become today after letting some NATO-backed terrorists to “lead the change.”

  13. 

    very informative, thanks

  14. 

    As intended by Western powers, the execution of Muammar Gadhafi and the disintegration of Libya has set that country back 50 years and ripe (as the rest of a disorganized Africa) for the UNOBSTRUCTED exploitation its wealth.

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  37. Welcome to the New Syria | COTO Report - July 23, 2012

    [...] new home. It’s gone. Just take a look at Libya. NATO air strikes even destroyed a massive water supply project vital to Libya’s [...]

  38. Coming Soon, It's the New Syria | Dailycensored.com - July 24, 2012

    [...] new home. It’s gone. Just take a look at Libya. NATO air strikes even destroyed a massive water supply project vital to Libya’s [...]

  39. Welcome to the New Syria | The GOLDEN RULE - July 24, 2012

    [...] to your new home. It’s gone. Just take a look at Libya. NATO air strikes even destroyed a massive water supply project vital to Libya’s [...]

  40. Libya, Al Qaedas takeover and resirculation of western propaganda tactics « Carlsenthinks - September 4, 2012

    [...] Military planes dropped bombs over tanks, vehicles, hospitals, schools, food supply facilities and water supply facilities. Many of these are civilian targets and it is per definition war-crimes, yet noone is yet to be [...]

  41. Monsanto “War” Kills US Ambassador To Libya | EUTimes.net - October 9, 2012

    [...] of Libya, this report says, KBR, Inc. was behind the bombing of the GMR by NATO warplanes who on 22 July 2011 destroyed the Brega pipe factory, which enables leaks and breaks in the system to be repaired on the GMR, thus allowing KBR, Inc. to [...]

  42. European Gazette - Monsanto “War” Kills US Ambassador To Libya - October 10, 2012

    [...] of Libya, this report says, KBR, Inc. was behind the bombing of the GMR by NATO warplanes who on 22 July 2011 destroyed the Brega pipe factory, which enables leaks and breaks in the system to be repaired on the GMR, thus allowing KBR, Inc. to [...]

  43. Monsanto “War” Kills US Ambassador To Libya | The Total Collapse - October 13, 2012

    [...] of Libya, this report says, KBR, Inc. was behind the bombing of the GMR by NATO warplanes who on 22 July 2011 destroyed the Brega pipe factory, which enables leaks and breaks in the system to be repaired on the GMR, thus allowing KBR, Inc. to [...]

  44. HIGH CRIMES – minnesportalen « MEDIAFRIHET - December 8, 2012

    [...] 2011-10-27. 39 http://www.afro.com/sections/news/national/story.htm?storyid=72369, 2011-09-26. 40 http://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2011/07/27/great-man-made-river-nato-bombs/, 2011-10-27. 41 http://rt.com/usa/news/nato-depleted-uranium-libya/, 2011-20-27; [...]

  45. HIGH CRIMES – minnesportalen « …PRATA INTE OM DET! - December 13, 2012

    [...] 2011-10-27. 39 http://www.afro.com/sections/news/national/story.htm?storyid=72369, 2011-09-26. 40 http://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2011/07/27/great-man-made-river-nato-bombs/, 2011-10-27. 41 http://rt.com/usa/news/nato-depleted-uranium-libya/, 2011-20-27; [...]

  46. Clinton con conmoción cerebral y perdida de memoria, el complot de Bengashi, Monsanto, John Kerry , Assad y el futuro de Israel « NUEVA EUROPA- Nueva Eurabia - December 17, 2012

    [...] Dice este informe, KBR, Inc. estaba detrás del atentado de la RMG por aviones de la OTAN que el 22 de julio 2011 destruyeron la fábrica de tubos de Brega , que permite fugas y roturas en el sistema para ser reparado en la RMG, permitiendo así que KBR, [...]

  47. La Grande Jamahiriya prévaudra / The Great Jamahiriya will Prevail « Windows Live space - January 21, 2013

    [...] From Human Rights Investigations: [...]

  48. OpEdNews – Welcome To The New Syria – Reprise – 30 September 2013 | Lucas 2012 Infos - September 30, 2013

    […] new home. It’s gone. Just take a look at Libya. NATO air strikes even destroyed a massive water supply project vital to Libya’s future. (New […]

  49. The Progressive Mind » OpEdNews - Article: Welcome to the New Syria - Reprise - September 30, 2013

    […] new home. It’s gone. Just take a look at Libya. NATO air strikes even destroyed a massive water supply project vital to Libya’s future. (New […]

  50. Who attacked Ghouta with chemical weapons? – the opposition forces « Human rights investigations - November 12, 2013

    […] to understand situations of conflict since early in the Libya conflict. (Examples here and here and here). However, the WaG site marks a step forward in showing that an online collaborative effort can be […]

  51. The Daily Censored » Coming Soon, It's the New Syria - February 16, 2014

    […] new home. It’s gone. Just take a look at Libya. NATO air strikes even destroyed a massive water supply project vital to Libya’s […]

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