Wihdeh dam deal signed after 50 years

11 April 2003
Turkish contractor Ozaltin Construction Companysigned on 6 April the JD 61.7 million ($85.9 million) contract to build the Wihdeh dam on the Syrian-Jordanian border. Ozaltin was selected for the contract in mid-February. Seven other contractors - two from China, two from Spain, one German, one Turkish and one local - bid for the Jordan Valley Authority contract (MEED 15:03:02).

Construction is scheduled to last 30 months and entails building a 600-metre-long dam with capacity of 125 million cubic metres. On completion, the dam will supply water for some 11,750 acres of cultivated land in the Jordan Valley and drinking water for the residents of Zarqa. The Turkish main contractor is responsible for 60 per cent of the work and must subcontract 40 per cent to local and Syrian companies. Jordanian concrete firm Marwan Ahmed Kurdiand Syrian earthworks firm Kassioun Contractors have been named as subcontractors.

The dam will be erected on the Yarmouk river in Maqaren, 12 kilometres north of Irbid, with half of the construction taking place on the Syrian side of the river. The project was originally conceived in the 1950s and negotiations between Amman and Damascus on building the dam date back to a 1953 agreement that was amended in 1978 to regulate shares of the river.

The new reservoir will be used to supply greater Irbid as well as augment the Jordan Valley's irrigation reserves and, eventually, improve Amman's drinking water levels. The dam will also control flooding from the Yarmouk river.

In accordance with a previous bilateral understanding, Syria will not be allocated any water from the dam. The Wihdeh dam was initially designed to have storage capacity of 225 million cubic metres but the capacity was reduced to 110 million cubic metres in its first phase. However, the Ministry of Water & Irrigation has not ruled out a second phase of construction should extra capacity be needed.

Amman is financing 25 per cent of the construction costs, with the remainder being funded by the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development, the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank and the Abu Dhabi Development Fund.

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