ACCRA, Ghana — Radar data recorded in space has found the remains of a giant lake under Darfur's arid sands, setting off plans to sink 1,000 wells that could help stop the region's war.
A team led by a veteran of NASA's Apollo lunar exploration program used satellites' remote sensing equipment to build a picture of the 12,000-square-mile lake.
Although its waters drained away as the region turned to semidesert, researchers are confident that large amounts of moisture have been preserved as groundwater.
The conflict in the western Sudanese province of Darfur, which has killed 200,000 people and forced 250,000 from their homes, has its historic roots in clashes over scarce water resources.
Long-running skirmishes between Arab nomads and black African farmers, both fighting for dwindling supplies, erupted into full-scale civil war in 2003.
"Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process and provide the necessary resources for economic development in Darfur," said Farouk El-Baz, director of Boston University's Center for Remote Sensing.
"New water resources will provide hope to the people of northwestern Sudan and will also allow for the migration of the labor force closer to the wells, where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable."
Mr. El-Baz, who was stationed at mission control for the Apollo lunar landings, has won commitments from Sudan's government for 1,000 wells in Darfur.