“In Libya, the drama of Derna reveals the explosive legacies of Gaddafi’s reign”

Derna has always lived a history punctuated by floods. This is what justified the construction of two dams upstream. However, Cyclone Daniel, by its incomparable power, has no common measure with even the most paroxysmal episodes that the city has experienced. It marks Libya’s shift into the uncertain future of climate change.

But above all it reveals to what extent this future is strongly mortgaged, as the present already is, by the legacies of a past and its explosive legacies which have considerably amplified the drama. These legacies are neither only nor mainly those of the civil war which followed the fall of Gaddafi. Rather, they go back to the chaos of his reign, a chaos of which we find echoes in that of today. And directly into the drama of Derna.

The dams, whose rupture multiplied the effects of the cyclone with the instantaneous release of the millions of cubic meters stored there, have not been inspected or maintained since… 2003! That is almost a decade before the fall of Gaddafi. Their state of abandonment for twenty years inevitably contributed to their weakening. Although the dams were no longer maintained, a budget line continued to be allocated to them annually and to be reported as completed!

A weapon of m destruction

It is the illustration of a system which has made national resources patrimonial and where positions of responsibility, allocated according to tribal allegiances, are designed primarily as a means of access to these resources. A system where short-term predation, clientelist interference and populist whims have dangerously affected the environment to the point of transforming it into danger.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers The long history of Derna, martyr city of Libya

This is how, from the middle of the 2000s, less than thirty years after their construction, these dams found themselves more than 50% silted up. These millions of cubic meters of silt contributed to the weakening of the dams. Above all, they have become a weapon of m destruction whose sudden release has made the flood more aggressive and harmful. The muddy cover that covers the city comes largely from this.

This siltation is due to the intense erosion of the watershed, the exploitation of which had become a power issue. Green region in an arid Libya but also a region hostile to power, the latter has disproportionately encouraged the activity of its supporters, cultivated divisions and competition around it to the point that it has multiplied, in conflict , grazing, agricultural operations and construction, generating intense erosion which silted up the dams.

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