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An artist's conception of what Atlantropa may look like, as seen from space.
Atlantropa, also referred to as Panropa, was a gigantic engineering and colonization project devised by the German architect Herman Sörgel in the 1920s and promulgated by him until his death in 1952. Its central feature was a hydroelectric dam to be built across the Strait of Gibraltar, which would have provided enormous amounts of hydroelectricity and would have led to the lowering of the surface of the Mediterranean Sea by up to 200 metres (660 ft), opening up large new lands for settlement, for example in a now almost totally drained Adriatic Sea. The project proposed four additional major dams as well:
- Across the Dardanelles to hold back the Black Sea
- Between Sicily and Tunisia to provide a roadway and further lower the inner Mediterranean
- On the Congo river below its Kwa River tributary to refill the Mega-Chad basin around Lake Chadproviding fresh water to irrigate the Sahara and creating a shipping lane to the interior of Africa
- Suez Canal extension and locks to maintain Red Sea connection
Sörgel saw his scheme, projected to take over a century, as a peaceful European-wide alternative to the Lebensraum concepts which later became one of the stated reasons for Nazi conquest of new territories. Atlantropa would provide land and food, employment, electric power, and most of all, a new vision for Europe and neighbouring Africa.
The Atlantropa movement, through its several decades, was characterised by four constants:
- Pacifism, in its promises of using technology in a peaceful way;
- Pan-European sentiment, seeing the project as a way to unite a war-torn Europe;
- White-centric superiority (and even racist) attitudes to Africa (which was to become united with Europe into "Atlantropa"), and
- Neo-colonial geopolitics which saw the world being divided into three blocs, America, Asia and Atlantropa.
Active support was limited to architects and planners from Germany and a number of other primarily northern European countries. Critics derided it for various faults, ranging from lack of any actual cooperation of Mediterranean countries in the planning to the impacts it would have had on the historic coastal communities left stranded inland when the sea receded. The project reached great popularity in the late 1920s/early 1930s, and for a short period again, in the late 1940s/early 1950s, but soon disappeared from general discourse again after Sörgel's death.