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Pyramids, Sphinx Threatened by Rising Groundwater

By Chris V. Thangham     Dec 31, 2007 in Environment
Engineers in Egypt worry that groundwater is threatening structural damage to the Pyramids at the Giza Plateau. In some areas flooding is already occurring and poses problems for excavation works.
Egyptian hydrologist and technical engineers are blaming farming, urbanization and residential housing near temples for the rising water table and flooding near these ancient structures.
They claim the groundwater is coming closer to the foundations, columns and walls of antiquities in Giza Plateau and may cause structural damages.
Reda Mohamed el-Damak, director of the Center of Studies and Designs for Water Projects at Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering, told Kyodo News that groundwater is posing a threat to the Sphinx in the Giza Plateau. He said the ground water is only 4 meters deep under the Sphinx.
What they see is just not water; it is rather a combination of toxic waste and chemicals, which may cause more serious damage than water.
As the Daily Green reports: "Damak is now spearheading a team of the faculty's scientists to try to save antiquities on the Giza Plateau from groundwater, which hydrologists say comes from the nearby el-Mansuriya Canal, a secondary drainage channel located some 500 meters away from the Sphinx area."Hafez Abdel Azim Ahmed, director of the faculty's Archaeological and Environmental Engineering Center, told Kyodo News that residents of Nazlet el-Samman village near the pyramids throw garbage into the el-Mansuriya Canal. As a result, it clogs up the drain and causes the water to rise from the canal onto the area near the Sphinx.
There is also water from the farms nearby which is irrigated without a drainage system. The fertilizer chemicals might seep through as well.
Damak said he proposed to Zahi Hawas, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, two projects to combat this groundwater problem:"We offered an optimal and permanent solution to Zahi Hawas. We proposed to build a 30-meter deep diaphragm wall in order to isolate this depression and drain off the water into smaller wells to reduce the level of water table. However, he rejected the project, because he wanted quick solutions."Technical engineer Ismail Naguib said the Sphinx is safe for now. But in the future, if the groundwater problem is not solved and a sewage system is not implemented to treat the chemicals, it may pose problems for the Sphinx.
Hawas thinks the Sphinx and other antiquities will be fine but he said he will talk with Swedish Consultancy and find a permanent solution to save the Giza antiquities from groundwater.
An Egyptologist working with Hawas speaking on condition of anonymity said the water has already flooded part of an area, the cemetery of pyramid builders that Hawas discovered where excavations are still under way. So, it appears the problem is more serious than what Hawas believes it to be.
I hope the Egyptians will adopt more preventive measures and try to protect these antiquities from groundwater and sewage systems.
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