Desert agriculture based on water from the Nile

Background

The New Valley in Egypt covers an area of around 440,000 square kilometers. This region has undergone a significant agricultural development. The New Valley, encompassing the Toshka Depression and adjacent lands along the Nile River, was the focus of the Toshka Project, which was initiated in the late 20th century.

This project aimed to divert water from Lake Nasser to irrigate approximately 540,000 hectares of desert land in the New Valley, with the goal of creating new agricultural land. The project involved the construction of canals and infrastructure to facilitate irrigation. After initial successes, the Toshka Project faced a series of challenges, and by 2011, it was estimated that only a fraction of the intended area was under cultivation. In the meanwhile, the efforts have been increased again and have led to a significant growth of the cultivated area.

To understand the scale and impact of the project, satellite images are a valuable tool. Over the years, satellite technology has been instrumental in monitoring changes in land use and vegetation. Satellite images are used to analyse how the landscape transforms, providing a visual representation of successes and setbacks of the agricultural initiatives in the New Valley. This includes the analysis of environmental consequences of such large-scale interventions.

Exercises

  • Satellite Map:
    • Look at the satellite image maps and click on the layer selector icon in the upper right. Select the 2015 and 2020 Landsat mosaic images only by ticking the respective boxes and compare the images by switching the 2020 image on and off.
    • Which changes can you detect?
    • Select the detail satellite image from 2015 and zoom in to display it in full extent. Which land cover classes can you identify?
    • Add the satellite images from 2018, 2021, and 2022 one by one and analyse the differences. Which changes can you identify?
    • In which period of time (between which satellite images) has the canal from Lake Nasser in the east to the Toshka lakes been opened? For this, add the 2015 and 2022 water layers, too.
  • EO Browser:
    • Open the EO Browser.
    • Find the most recent Sentinel-2 dataset covering the area displayed in the satellite map.
    • Select a true colour visualisation.
    • Can you identify additional, recent changes in the area (check e.g. agricultural land and water bodies)?
    • Select the false colour infrared representation. Can you identify the land-use of the most intensely vegetated areas (represented by bright red colours)?

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