Plans for Wihdeh dam scaled down

15 March 2002

After two decades on the drawing board, plans for the Wihdeh dam project have been approved by the Jordanian and Syrian governments and a prequalification tender will be issued at the end of March, Jordanian Water & Irrigation Minister Hazem Nasser announced on 10 March. Technical modifications to the tender have reduced the original scope of the estimated $120 million project, which will involve construction of a 600-metre-long dam with a capacity of 125 million cubic metres on the Yarmouk river. A contract award is expected by the end of the third quarter.

Under plans drawn up in early 2000, the Wihdeh dam would have been 100 metres high, with a storage capacity of 225 million cubic metres and a price tag of $210 million. However, a joint study conducted last year by the Syrian and Jordanian water ministries revealed that the flow of the river has declined dramatically in the last three years. The Yarmouk, which begins in Syria and flows along the border with Jordan, is a tributary of the Jordan river and one of the most important water resources in the region. A decade of drought and the storage of floodwater by both countries has reduced the flow of the river to 1 cubic metre a second (cm/s), compared with 3 cm/s in 1997.

When it is completed in early 2005, the dam will supply irrigation water for 47,000 dunums (11,750 acres) of agricultural land in the Jordan valley, and provide drinking water for Amman and the northern town of Zarqa. It will also supply Syria with up to 18,000 MWh of electricity a year. According to Nasser, a second phase of construction to expand the capacity of the dam to its original specifications has not been ruled out. Funds have been pledged for the project by the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development, the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund (MEED 7:12:01).

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