The Construction And Consequences Of Aswan Dam Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Water, Medicine, Construction, Health, People, River, Egypt, Middle East

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/09/14

Aswan Dam is located on the river Nile in Egypt. It was built and completed in the year 1970. The construction cost of the dam was one billion dollars, in total. Its reservoir capacity is 5.97 trillion cubic feet. The primary purpose of this dam is to control floods, create hydroelectric power and be a source of irrigation (Guertin). It is built upon Lake Nasser and is made up mostly of rock and clay. Planned by a team of British engineers and built by a team of Soviet Engineers, Aswan Dam is one of its kind. Aswan Dam is believed to be one of the largest embankments dam in the world. The world knows it by the name of Aswan Dam, but it is also known by the name of Saad el Aali. The Aswan Dam is built near the city Aswan upon the Nile River. It has one of the world’s largest reservoirs: Lake Nasser (Abu-Zeid and El-Shibini). This paper discusses the construction and consequences of Aswan Dam including floods, resettlement, effect on agriculture and fishing, and diseases caused by the dam.
The construction of Aswan Dam started in January 1960 after Soviet Union financed the project by providing funding to Egypt for the dam. The first stage in the construction of the dam got completed in 1964. By then, the reservoirs had started to fill. By 1970, The High Dam was completed while the reservoirs of the Dam reached to their maximum capacity by 1976. Before the construction of Aswan dam, the Nile River would flood its banks once a year, causing a deposition of nutrient rich sediment on the land which allowed the people to cultivate a rather uncultivable piece of land. However, this wasn’t always the case. There were many years where the river wouldn’t rise, hence resulting in horrendous famine for the people of the surrounding area. Due to this problem, the then President of Egypt, Gomal Abdal-Naseer, decided to build a dam ( The Aswan dam works like any other dams. It contains water in the season of heavy rain and flooding for later use. The dam is also a source for generation of hydroelectric power, engendering around ten billion kilowatt of electricity for Egypt. In addition to its multi-faceted functions, the water from Aswan Dam is also used for irrigation purposes by the people living in the area around the dam.
Despite all the benefits, Aswan Dam has proved to be harmful in many ways, for the people of Egypt, too. One cannot undermine the side effects posed by this enormous project. Like all projects, Aswan Dam projected certain externalities to the society. Fore-mostly, the sole construction of the bank required ninety thousand Egyptians to pack up and leave their homes. Those who had been living in Egypt had to move forty five kilometers away. However the Sudanese Nubian were forced to move six hundred kilometers away from their homes.
The consequences of the resettlement program weren’t pleasant at all. Around fifty thousand farmers had to abandon their lands and had to relocate themselves in the ‘New Nubia’ which was well away from an arable land. The farming practices that depended on annual floods came to an end and these farmers suffered losses. Most of the arable land was submerged by the reservoir causing multiple clashes with in the systems and methods of farming. The unsustainability and inadequate resources to support the population resulted in disease and death. Refugee camps came into being afterwards, but the situation remained pretty much the same as the hygienic conditions of these camps were alarming. The threat from the resultant flood, occurring because of the dam, has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes and relocate themselves. This has caused numerous problems for these people in terms of their livelihood and re-settlement.
In addition to this, the deposition of fertile sediment that enabled farmers to cultivate the arid land now rests beneath the Lake Nasser which is a product of Aswan Dam. This has resulted in an excessive use of fertilizers, around one million ton, by the farmers to compensate for the lost silt. The increased demand in use of artificial fertilizers has forced the government to import more of it in the country. The excessive use of these artificial fertilizers does not only add extra cost to the farmers but is also extremely hazardous to the environment. The resulting pollution created from the use of these fertilizers can prove to be detrimental in the long run. These fertilizers contain high amounts of nitrogen and potassium which encourages the growth of algae in water. The lack of accumulation of silt outside the river has caused great erosion. Previously, the flooding would deposit the nutrient rich sediment which would hold on to the soil and prevent erosion; however after the construction of Aswan Dam, the sediment failed to deposit, resulting in erosion. The erosion, coupled with other minor factors has reduced the habitable area for the first time in 10,000 years. The effects of erosion down towards the Delta can be observed as far as Israel. Because, each year, the silt settles within the reservoir, forming layer upon layer, the capacity of the reservoir has reduced. The reservoir now holds less water and generates less electricity, failing to meet the needs of the nation and its citizens.
These fertilizers run off into the river and the algae growth causes a problem for the fish. Firstly the algae growth can block sunlight. Secondly, it consumes oxygen, which leaves much less for the fish, resulting in their diminished numbers. Over the years, the fishing industry in Egypt has suffered from this (Guertin). For instance, the amount of sardine fishery has declined along the coasts of Egypt. However, it must also be noted that the decline in the catch occurred in the time period of 1965-1969, after 1980, the catch rate began to rise up again. The reason behind this phenomenon is still unknown but it is very encouraging for the authorities as well as the people whose livelihood depends on fishing (Ghabbour; Guertin).
Aswan Dam seems to have become a source of increased disease as well. A disease known by the name of schistosomiasis is a product of stagnant water in the fields and reservoirs. The rate of the disease has increased since the opening of Aswan Dam. Although the research has shown that the disease has been present in the area for thousands of years, it is also proven that the reservoir is the perfect and the biggest breeding ground for this disease. Keeping this in mind, the construction of Aswan dam has provided a perfect opportunity for this disease to grown. The ration of people infected by this disease has increased from 21 percent to almost hundred percent. The established cases of malaria also came into scene in northern Africa after the construction of Aswan Dam and the establishment of Lake Nasser. The growth and breeding ground of mosquitos are commonly sources of stagnant waters and the lakeshore of Lake Nasser is a picture perfect abode for their growth. Studies have also shown that the recent identification of west Nile virus and other water-bred and mosquito borne diseases have a direct relation with the shores of Lake Nasser.
The example of Aswan Dam isn’t the only one where the consequences weren’t so pleasant. For instance the Kariba Dam, which has been built across the Zambezi River, was supposed to fulfill the need of electricity of the area, however it ended up creating several other problems for the people living in that area. There are also places like lceland, where dam construction isn’t so sticky. The dam provides a limitless source of hydro generated electricity and has caused no resettlement problems to the people of that particular area. Aswan Dam may have looked like a need back in 1952. The constant threat of famine and hunger and no place to store fresh water was problematic. Aswan dam is a result of long term planning. It fulfilled the electricity needs of the country and Lake Nasser became a source of freshwater. It is true that much arable land and farms were destroyed in the process but the irrigation system stemming from Aswan Dam has allowed many farmers to irrigate uncultivable land. Aswan Dam, where it provides benefits to the country, has its own share of negative consequences.


Abu-Zeid, M. A., and F. Z. El-Shibini. 'Egypt's High Aswan Dam'. International Journal of Water Resources Development 13.2 (1997): 209-218. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.
Ghabbour, Samir I. 'In Favour Of The Aswan High Dam'. Biological Conservation 5.4 (1973): 291-292. Web.
Guertin, Dr. 'Lesson 6: The Nile River - Where Does The Water Go?'. N.p., 2015. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.,. 'BUILDING BIG: Databank: Aswan High Dam'. N.p., 2015. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.,. 'Human Impacts On The Nile River: The Aswan Dam Disadvantages'. N.p., 2015. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.

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