Dubbed ‘the door of the desert’, the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is combating land degradation, loss of biodiversity and desertification by building a greenbelt of trees – irrigated by treated wastewater – and constructing North Africa’s largest solar energy plant.
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Once completed in 2019, the Noor-Ouarzazate solar power plant will generate 18% of Morocco’s annual electricity. It will save the country 1 million tonnes of oil equivalent and prevent the emission of 3.7 million tonnes of CO2.
The plant is part of Morocco’s ambitious Solar Energy Programme, which will see five solar power projects, spread over 10,000 hectares, built by 2020.
‘So far, we managed to plant 400 hectares. This will help us to stop desertification, decrease land degradation and protect the city from strong winds and dust clouds.’
Youssef Hammouzaki, Project Manager from the High Commission for Water, Forestry and Desertification Control of Morocco
In recent years Morocco has imported 95% of its energy as fossil fuels, providing subsidies on these fuels at a cost of $1-4 billion per year.
With a growing population, rising living standards and increasing power demand from cities and energy-intensive industry, one of Morocco’s key priorities is to increase and diversify its energy supply.
Inhabited by 60,000 people, Ouarzazate is one of Southern Morocco’s major tourism hubs. However, its location – on a bare plateau in the High Atlas Mountains – makes it vulnerable to desertification and desert storms.
These affect the local communities by deteriorating living conditions and accelerating land degradation and loss of biodiversity.
To mitigate these environmental challenges, Morocco, with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Korea Forest Service (KFS), is building a greenbelt of trees around Ouarzazate and greening the surrounding drylands using treated wastewater and clean energy for irrigation.
The success of this pilot project has encouraged national and local authorities to scale it up to a second phase.