Aswan High Dam

02 May 2017

The Aswan High Dam is 111 metres high and holds back the Lake Nasser reservoir, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world by volume

In the mid-1950s, the Egyptian authorities decided to build a new dam on the River Nile, approximately four miles south of the existing one, which was no longer able to contain the river’s flow and prevent the annual flooding.

Construction of the Aswan High Dam began in 1959 and the 3,830 metre-long structure was completed in July 1970 at a cost of about $1bn. The dam’s hydroelectric power station was commissioned in 1967. It has 12 turbines and produces 2,100MW of electricity for industrial and domestic use.

The project was hugely controversial. In the process of construction, some 90,000 people had to be resettled and ancient Egyptian monuments moved to higher ground to allow for the rise in water levels at Lake Nasser.

Plans for the Aswan High Dam were also the root cause of the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. The UK and US had agreed to fund the construction of the dam, but they pulled out of the project after learning of a secret Egyptian arms deal with the Soviet Union.

This prompted President Gamal Abdel Nasser to nationalise the British and French-owned Suez Canal in order to use tolls to pay for the dam project. In response, Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt in a joint military operation. But the US, UN and the Soviet Union forced them to withdraw, leaving the Suez Canal in Cairo’s hands from 1957 onwards.

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