Fifty years on, the Nile dam that changed the face of Egypt

The space was flooded not less than a 3rd of the yr; the villagers would erect mud limitations to forestall waters from reaching their properties. Then got here the dam, which formally opened after greater than a decade of building on January 15, 1971.

Built in the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties beneath the nation’s chief, the charismatic Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the Soviet Union helped in its building after the United States and Britain withdrew monetary help.

Their withdrawal was a think about Nasser’s subsequent resolution to nationalize the Suez Canal, taking it from British and French corporations. He deliberate to make use of canal revenues to finance the dam. Egyptians hailed it as the second when their nation lastly threw off many years of imperialist management, and Nasser was known as a patriot.

The transfer angered France and Britain. They, together with Israel, invaded and briefly took the canal in the 1956 Mideast struggle. But the United States and the Soviet Union ordered them to tug again, in what was seen throughout the Arab world as a defining victory for Nasser and Arab nationalism.

The dam’s building changed the very panorama of Egypt. It spared the farmers from seasonal droughts and flooding, and generated electrical energy, spurring Egypt’s fast improvement. For years, the dam served as the predominant supply of energy for the nation, which has not too long ago wanted to spend money on different sources to fulfill the wants of its booming inhabitants.

“It is the greatest Egyptian project since the time of the pharaohs,” mentioned Abbas Sharaky, a water assets professor at Cairo University, describing how the Nile was tamed.

The river is fashioned by its two tributaries, the Blue Nile, originating from Lake Tana in Ethiopia and the White Nile, from Lake Victoria in Uganda. The tributaries meet in central Sudan from the place the Nile winds northward by Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

The undertaking ensured an ample water provide all yr, Sharaky mentioned. In the Nineteen Eighties, a chronic drought dropped the Nile to its lowest stage since 1913 south of the dam, and upstream international locations confronted drought and famine. But Egypt was spared. Lake Nasser, created by the dam, supplied an alternate supply of water.

Today, as Egypt marks 50 years of the Aswan Dam, it’s embroiled in stormy negotiations with Sudan and Ethiopia to resolve a long-running dispute over one other large dam, one that Ethiopia is constructing on the Blue Nile, the predominant tributary of the Nile.

Ethiopia hopes its dam, now greater than three-quarters full, will generate electrical energy vital to assist pull hundreds of thousands of its folks out of poverty. Egypt, which depends nearly solely on the Nile to produce water for agriculture and its 100 million-strong inhabitants, fears a devastating impression if the Ethiopian dam is operated with out taking its wants under consideration.

Despite the quite a few advantages it introduced, the Aswan High Dam additionally had destructive side-effects. It elevated the salt content material of the soil used to develop meals, holding again the wealthy silt that acted as a fertilizer, and drove 1000’s of villagers from their Nile Valley properties.

Some 50,000 Nubian folks had been subjected to compelled resettlement in 1963 and 1964, to vacate the space the place Lake Nasser, which covers 2,000 sq. miles, was created.

The world paid little consideration to the displacement of the Nubians, who had been moved to 44 new villages north of Aswan, however many nonetheless dream of returning to land alongside the lake, close to their unique properties.

There was, nevertheless, worldwide uproar over antiquities relationship again to the instances of the pharaohs that had been endangered by the dam’s encroaching reservoir. In 1960, the UNESCO issued a world attraction to avoid wasting the temples of Abu Simbel, one of the nation’s hottest vacationer points of interest and a priceless treasure from antiquity. More than 113 international locations responded with funds or experience at the time.

The temples had been moved piece by piece to increased floor — an unprecedented engineering achievement, remembered as a turning level that made the preservation of cultural treasures a accountability that minimize throughout borders.

“Of course, there were damages,” Sharaky, the college professor, mentioned of the Aswan dam’s building. “But the benefits have been incomparable.”

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