The surface of the Sahara desert has increased by 10% in a century, which is equivalent to the surface of the metropolitan area of France. In “When the Desert Approaches”, a documentary “On the Front” aired tonight at 21 on France 5, Hugo Clément takes as his starting point this observation to make us discover seven initiatives around the world to prevent the sand from spreading further afield. and the vegetation disappears.
1. When the sand reaches France
While the documentary talks about the Sahara, it is in France that the report begins. The desert sand is transported to the Alps by sirocco, the warm wind coming from the south. Hugo Clément accompanied Marie Dumont, a researcher at the Center for Snow Studies, on a day when 300,000 tons of sand were deposited on the French mountains. If this orange color of the snow gives the impression of skiing in a Martian landscape, it is also the cause of an ecological disaster: darker than when it is white, the snow absorbs more of the sun’s rays and melts faster. At the end of the season, the melting takes place several weeks earlier than usual.
2. In Mauritania, a city engulfed in sand
It is then in Mauritania that we travel. In this country, west of the Sahara, the inhabitants see desertification day by day. The city of Chinguetti has already been engulfed by the sand, rebuilt a little longer, re-engulfed and rebuilt, and it is now the third city threatened. The ground floors of the houses are no longer accessible. “The battle against the desert is David and Goliath,” comments the mayor of Chinguetti, as the inhabitants move the sand with shovels, day after day. As soon as the wind comes back, all their efforts are wiped out and they have to start all over again.
In Namibia, the drought is threatening animals
The Namib Desert in southern Africa is drying up so much that animals can no longer find water or food there. Lions then approach the villages, hungry and making chaos when they manage to get into a herd of goats, or when they encounter dogs guarding the herds. Hugo Clément accompanied Félix Vallat, a guide who intervenes to keep the lions away when the inhabitants of the village are ready to shoot him to protect themselves.
Aircraft that make it rain in the United Arab Emirates
While the villagers of Mauritania or Namibia are fighting the drought with scandalous means, the United Arab Emirates is developing projects akin to science fiction. As soon as a cloud appears in the sky, the planes go directly towards it and release salt into the air. The small cloud water droplets gather around the salt grains, become heavy and fall due to their weight. The documentary specifies that it is not forbidden to empty a cloud of water that is on its way to another country …
5. Still in the United Arab Emirates, the city of the future
Hugo Clément then traveled to a district of Dubai that is fully adapted to heat and drought. With a wastewater recycling system, three times less water is consumed than in the rest of the country. Greenhouses with freshness grow fruits and vegetables, while animals benefit from losing. The buildings have no south-facing windows, and non-electric cars are prohibited in the neighborhood. Such facilities may one day be the only solutions to live in the hottest and driest areas of the planet.
6. In Senegal, troublesome replanting
Given the enormous resources in the United Arab Emirates, the techniques of the Senegalese reproduction agency seem ridiculous. The project, which was launched 15 years ago, aims to make southern Sahara greener, and for this the inhabitants are throwing seeds in the hand. They use slingshots to reach areas that are inaccessible on foot. They add seeds to animal feed to spread through their excrement. A new, more efficient system is being developed: it would make it possible to bomb seeds using a helicopter. So far, twelve million trees have been planted thanks to this project. “We want to make our country greener and we want to get there,” said its director, Haïdar El Ali.
7. An extinct species reintroduced into the wild in Chad
Finally, it is a project to reintroduce animals into their original environment that completes the series of reports. Scimitar-horned oryx have been exterminated in the wild in Chad due to poaching despite extreme resistance to the living conditions of the desert as they need very little water. Hugo Clément followed the journey of these animals bred in captivity in the United Arab Emirates before being transported to the Central African country to be reintroduced into the wild. A few dozen more, and the scimitar-horned oryx population will be viable in the wild.
Between desperate situations and innovative solutions, this “on the front line” highlights people’s inequality in relation to climate change.
“On the Front: When the Desert Approaches,” presented by Hugo Clément, Monday, April 4 at 21.00 on the 5th of France.