Novec, an African Leader with Global Ambitions Launches a 3.6 Billions USD Water Transfer Project in Morocco.
"20 million people affected by the proposed transfer of water from north to south"
Interview with Ahmed Fouad Chraibi, CEO of Novec
January 2012 was the start of the preliminary draft of a big, very big project to transfer basin water from north to south, which requires an investment of 30 Billion MAD to be directed by Novec, a public center of engineering expertise.
Since the 70s, Morocco has developed a policy of raising water that allowed it to have a heritage rich in water infrastructure and good experience in management of water resources. In 1997, the target set by the late Hassan II to irrigate 1 million hectares by 2000 was reached, access to drinking water was widespread in the cities until it became widespread in rural areas and nearly all of the Great Plains were protected against flooding. Today, the induced effects of climate change require the updating of water policy. Beyond the necessary institutional reforms in water sector, we must anticipate water shortages in the south.
This project undertaken by Novec, the largest group of public national and regional engineering started this week with the project draft for the proposed transfer of pond water from north to south, which requires an investment of 30 Billions MAD over a decade. The project which draws on the expertise of national companies, says Mr. Chraibi, CEO of Novec, allows anticipating and better managing our water resources in the context of a gradual reduction of water resources until 2050, due to climate change». This transfer should take place on 200 km for "three watersheds issuers located in northern Moroccothat have a positive water balance and excess water. It also concerns 3 watersheds that have a limited water resource considering the projected needs by 2030, with some already reporting deficits today. These account for about 80% of the surface water resources of the country and are situated where 90% of economic activity takes place as well as two thirds of the population of Morocco, or roughly 20 million people, live. This shows the strategic importance of the project. Novec is not only specialized in the control and management of water resources for nearly half a century. Its expertise in the field of building and sustainable development makes it a reference.
Novec just completed repairs to the Hassan II Mosque by working on seastructures with special high performance concrete, stainless steel to withstand the assaults of chlorine in sea salt. It began another project with TMSA Tangier Med II that requires an investment of 700 million euros and supports the Ministry of Agriculture in transforming perimeters using gravity and drip irrigation. We chose in this issue to address only a few projects over the water, made by Novec, a subsidiary of CDG Development. A CDG management that took the honors in the Paris Forum relocated to Casablanca. Jalloul Ayyad, former finance minister of the Tunisian government paid tribute to "this public institution created in 1959 to accompany the economic and social development of Morocco." Tunisia, he said, was further inspired by the Moroccan experience and has created the Deposit and Consignment Fund to play its role in investment and infrastructure without affecting the budget deficit. "
LE MATIN: Novec is the first engineering firm nationally and regionally, the resultof a merger between two large offices, the oldest of Morocco, SCET the first office established in 1958 and Ingema created in 1973. What is really what we refer to a "national champion in engineering"?
Ahmed Fouad CHRAIBI: Novec this is the first group in turnover or in terms of numbers with 625 people and 330 million dirhams in CA for 2011. We treat all areas of activity: infrastructure, dams, tunnels, roads, highways, rail and ports, bridges, and water development, sanitation, various networks, agriculture, rural development, water resources, of the environment, energy and finally building. In the latter area, we cover allcomponents, technical lots and secondary lots. We are, I think, the only office that is capable of covering building in all its components, including the geotechnical aspects. In building we often use our laboratory, where our engineers study the structure and wheregeotechnical knowledge is needed to optimize the structure and function of the foundation that allows for great economy in building. 150 multidisciplinary engineers, project managers, technicians and designers. Intervention areas range from housing to tertiary. We have also established a technical intelligence unit to be in tune with the national and international developments in technology and in sustainable development building. We are leaders in national technical studies for energy efficient buildings.
LE MATIN: Allowing you to achieve excellent results, shall we say, in the field of tall towers?
We are actually working on very tall buildings in Morocco. Two large towers in the continuity of the Hassan II Mosque are planned, one of which will be over 150 meters high at the Marina of Casablanca including a grandiose architecture with structural consequences that are important. These towers will border a new city with hotels, convention centers, conference center, shopping center, residences. The projects arebeing implemented by subsidiaries of the CDG who wants to reposition the city ofCasablanca as a modern city, a city of the future.
LE MATIN: The Hassan II Mosque built in part on the ocean and opened in 1993, experienced a deterioration of concrete infrastructure. Your firm at the time Ingema has been designated to carry out the work. Can you report on your work?
We have made major repairs to the mosque by working on the structures on the sea, with special high performance concretes, stainless steel and very sharp expertise. Premature aging of concrete under the effect of chlorine contained in the salt that penetrates concrete fueled fears of a collapse of some structures. We completed the project in two years and the mosque has regained its integrity and durability of 100 years. This project was important because it is a national monument of religious dimension that everyone carries in his heart, Novec has all conducted all the repair studies, it lasted 5 years. They trusted us and we deserved that trust.
LE MATIN: You had another major project, this time on Mediterranean side asthe prime contractor for the Tanger Med II project. Is this the first time that an investment of this magnitude is assigned to a Moroccan engineering firm?
The TMSA site is complex and important. It required an investment of 700 million euros. We have created a joint venture Novec-TMSA in charge of project management and whose employees are Moroccans. With Tangier Med I, we worked jointly with desktop computers. With the expertise gained from Tanger Med port passenger and I was able to build a team capable of taking over the prime contractor for the project of Tangier Med II, to summarize and give you an idea of the importance of the project, is double the Tangier Med I with an equally sophisticated technology. This includes building a 3 km dam, a dock of 2 km.
LE MATIN: Your focus areas that affect water, drinking water, sanitation, agriculture, and of course the water resource managed by a department of Novec specially dedicated to this field. They also say that you are the memory of all the work done since 1958!
Indeed, we have worked on most water basins blueprints in Morocco. The Sebou basin Master Plan, the Moulouya, and all the northern basins bordering theMediterranean. We actually worked on most of the water resources of Morocco and based on these master plans we measured a surplus in the north and having found a deficit in the south, the idea of to achieving a transfer of water from north south took shape. This transfer is a duty of solidarity, for the national life resource is water. We started with three observations. Three watersheds located in the northern United have a positive water "resources-needs" budget. The basins that have surplus water are: the basin of the Oued Lau, the basin of the river Loukkos and the basin of the river Sebu. The other basins of the Kingdom have a limited water resources in regard of the needs by 2030, some run deficits today. The project to transfer water from north to southMorocco concerns, besides the three already mentioned surplus basins, the deficit basins of Bouregreg, Oum Rabii and Tensift. These basins are situated where 20 million people, about two thirds of the population of Morocco, live. It is also these areas that host the majority of the country's economic activities. We can now understand the need for this transfer.
LE MATIN: In practice how does this happen?
This is a project that includes dams that are used to create sockets that are tunnels, canals, large pipes and pumping stations over 200 km from north to south, so as to bring the water up Dam El Massira. I recall that the El Massira dam is the second largest dam in Morocco after Al Wahda. It was built on the Oum Rabii one of the largest rivers of the country in 1978, with a capacity of 2.7 million m3. The goal is to provide drinking water supply in the coastal area between Casablanca and Safi andprovide for irrigation perimeters in Doukkala in the lower part of the Oum Rabii. Currently, we are already taking water from El Massira to bring it to Marrakech. Tomorrow, we will take water from Tarrabot Chaoun to bring it to Marrakech. This is a compensated transfer between water tanks. It is a very important project which will require an investment of around 30 Billion dirhams and impacts the economy and well-being of the population. The realization of the project has an impact on the national economy that is far from negligible. The project will indeed draw on the expertise of national companies.
LE MATIN: What are the basins affected by the proposed transfer of water catchments in northern Morocco to the south?
The project to transfer water from north to south for three watersheds issuers located in northern Morocco with a water budget "resources-needs" positive. These basins have surplus water are: the basin of the Oued Lau, the basin of the river Loukkos and the basin of the river Sebu. It also concerns 3 watersheds that have a water resource by limiting the needs for 2030 and with some already reporting deficits today. These basins are those deficient Bouregreg, Oum Rabii and Tensift. These basins cover about 80% of surface water resources of the country and where 90% of the country's economic activity as well as two thirds of the population of Morocco, 20 million people. This shows the strategic importance of the project. We have completed studies evaluating the feasibility of this project which took place in several phases including defining areas of potential beneficiaries of the water transfer, evaluation of transfers and their impact on users sending and receiving basins and technical evaluations, economic and institutional.
In addition to the proposed transfer, it is planned to develop the offer, a desalination project to accompany the increase in demand for potable water in the coastal area between the cities of Casablanca and Rabat. Water demand for irrigation has been reviewed in the study taking into account the contribution of the proposed transfer and in accordance with the guidance of master plans.
LE MATIN: A word perhaps on the management model adopted by the teams?
In order to satisfy all the requests displayed on drinking water and irrigation in the study area, namely the 6 basins (Lau, Loukkos Sebou Bouregreg Oum Rabii and Tensift), our teams have developed a model of comprehensive and integrated management of water resources. The model takes into account the existing and proposed facilities and desalination. It is a model that allowed us to evaluate system performance in terms of transfer, but also desalination and consider the effects of climate change with simulations conducted to represent the weather conditions announced by the experts at year 2050.
LE MATIN: Many will wonder given the investment that will be dedicated to the project if it is profitable and what are its macroeconomic impact?
In such projects, the economic, social and macro-economic effects are difficult to estimate. In short, I would say that we considered baseline scenarios with a comparative approach that takes account of non transfer. One thing is sure, the problem is not whether to build such a plant is technically feasible particularly in terms of its energy supply, it is not to oppose transfer and desalination. It is simply to say that if wedo not realize the proposed project, the social costs of its non-fulfillment and its macro-economic benefits are at least equivalent to the cost of capital and operating a desalination plant of a capacity of 430 m3/year.
LE MATIN: Besides cost-effectiveness, there is the issue of environmental impact, an important issue?
Absolutely, hydraulic and hydrologic consequences have been analyzed in detail, the study of the project's impact on the environment has focused on the impact of all the achievements of pipes, channels and galleries on immediate environment, either during or after work. The plots are far from populated areas, the impact on surrounding populations is limited. The study also lists the sensitive areas that may require some special precautions. Lastly, this important transfer project which is of course spread out over time is economically viable.
In the hydrological context that we have experienced over the past 60 years and also in the context of a gradual reduction of water resources until 2050, due to climate change, it allows us to anticipate and better manage our water resources. This is one of the first challenges of our country. This project optimizes resource management at a geographic scale far greater than that of each basin. It also helps to maximize our water resources in times of demand outstripping supply.
LE MATIN: Such achievements will enable Moroccan engineering to further capitalize on its expertise in the field of dam building. But you're already present in Latin America, Europe and especially in Africa?
We are creating subsidiaries in Mali, Mauritania, and Gabon with the CDC where we are delivering a first action. We are in the prequalification phase in Tunisia on a study of maintenance of dams, as siltation is a serious issue in this country as in all of North Africa. We are also present in Libya. In Africa, we have much less sedimentation, because the slopes are lower. We are present in DR Congo, Senegal, Burkina Fasoregarding the implementation plan of the dam of Saint-Mande Denis with a consortium of CID, a Swiss office and a local office. We are also present in Cameroon in farming, in the production and distribution of water in the whole country, and expertise and energy audit on behalf of the Cameroonian waters. I would also add that we have a lot of African engineers who are studying in Morocco. We are also working in Lebanon, where we have the confidence of the customer and where we realized a large dam and the studies of two other dams. Novec associated with a local office will soon sign a contract to build the largest dam in Lebanon. I would add that we made the strategic choice of satisfying Moroccan projects first and that allowed us to build over the long term, with the scale our group has taken and with the image that we convey, carried by the group CDG, we created a marketing department dedicated to our external development.
LE MATIN: Maybe a question about sustainable development. We spoke of the proposed transfer, but the fact remains that despite all the work done by the Secretary of State for Environment, there not in Morocco a genuine consideration of sustainable development issues.
We have a regulation that is being set up. Everything that is done at the Department of Energy, Mines and Water, is an entire legal system to impose environmental obligations. This is an extremely important issue, when you know for example that the storage capacity in Morocco loses 70 to 80 million m3 of water due to siltation. This means that in 20 years, we will lose more than 1 Billion m3! This is considerable and unevenly distributed. At Novec, we have a Sustainable Development direction, we have been working for nearly 25 years on this issue, and we know we must raise awareness, consult local people. With involvement from the start of the populations, we are sure that things work. At Novec, we have a sustainable development charter and creating awareness both internally and externally. We even put in place carpooling for the staff.
LE MATIN: Is there a solution to the siltation of dams?
We should first make it a concern. Sustainable management should be a primary concern and we must work alongside the strengthening of storage capacity, the protection of the heritage we have. There are solutions such as reforestation of watersheds that improves the environment and reduce sediment yield in the reservoirs. There are other solutions which are to equip the watershed, but it is a work in the long term, for decades.
LE MATIN: Does that question interest dams in Europe or elsewhere?
It depends on where they stand. In Pakistan, we have a dam that was silted in the space of 20 years! Nature that we want to ignore always ends up back on top. In the Alps, for example, there is no problem, since the land is rigid and there is vegetation that holds the sediment yield. In Spain, Italy and in Morocco there are problems of siltation that are created in the very long term. Today, we must absolutely include the issue of sustainable management of reservoirs in any new project.
LE MATIN: There is also the water management in agriculture, where you are now present for nearly a half century domestically and abroad. What are you doing inthat area?
We support the Ministry of Agriculture in all that is transforming perimeters irrigated by the local gravity, that is to say drip irrigation. We worked on pilot projects in local mode more advanced than in Spain by educating people, but also farmers who must learn to seek to optimize their engineering projects. On drip irrigation, we organize a mission to Australia, where farmers, farmers are extremely efficient in the drip. I would also add that Minister Akhennouch created a tremendous momentum for the sector by establishing a technical development and a policy of water management. He understoodas did officials from Japan and South Korea that national engineering is crucial, it must be part of a deliberate long-term policy.
Interview by Farida Moha, translated from french by Nabil El Aid El Othmani.
Personal Notes : A masterstroke really, benefiting two thirds of the population, and it pushes back the delays in terms of industrial scale water desalination that is still quite expensive and energy intensive. Desalination is the last thing you want to do when there are alternative solutions that are less energy intensive. In the end, it is always a matter of investment versus return. I am more interested in the possible future shape of events, one where desalinated water as a complementary source of water could flow to the southern areas of our country.
Indeed what has been labelled "the useless Morocco" by french colons has been so solely because agriculture was not possible due to the scarcity of water. Fix that and all of Morocco becomes useful, very as a matter of fact critical to the food, energy and water security of the whole region if its done right. The water transfer infrastructure will be very useful in that it can be extended further south thus endowing the Kingdom with a resilient water infrastructure with north south and south north water transfers, enabling us to expand and shield our agricultural yields in the event of droughts.
Water scarcity is one of those domains where a proactive approach is the best course of action, this is as good an example as it gets. The thing is that the current technology allows us to think further than being on the receiving side of nature when things are bad, into a framework where a resilient water infrastructure coupled with renewable energy resources allow not only for reclaiming arid land for agricultural use, but also colonize the deep Sahara inland in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
In other words we got to go after the last third situated further south, because there firstly there is much potential in it and secondly it is a natural process for Morocco to be an integrated country in terms of its domestic infrastructure and a connected one regionally with existing such infrastructures such that present in Lybia. Soon the Lybians will figure out that you dont want so much to pump from groundwater but rather replenish it and use it for storing desalinated water. Algeria could in the future develop a similar north south water transfer scheme, and the opportunity of connecting the water grids so as to dispose of a regional capacity that would benefit all parties is simply too good to pass upon.
As for the french, our common history goes on, their best representatives are coming to the country aboard a solar plane, the Solar Impulse, and it is quite clearly a milestone in our long friendship.
Novec : http://www.novec.ma/en/index.aspx
Genesis Morocco : http://genesismorocco.blogspot.com