On the 21st July 1970, construction was completed on the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. Taking just over ten years to build, the High Dam cost nearly $1 billion. However, it’s estimated that this cost was recovered in less than five years thanks to income from increased agricultural production and hydroelectric generation, as well as savings from flood protection and improved navigation.
A dam had already been built across the Nile near the southern Egyptian city of Aswan in 1902. It was designed to store the Nile’s annual floodwater and release it during the dry season in order to irrigate the farms and settlements further downstream. However, despite being heightened twice by the 1930s it still did not provide enough water for future development. Consequently designs for a new dam were sought.
Following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 led by the Free Officers Movement, President Gamal Abdel Nasser began searching for funding for the new dam. The US, Britain and the USSR all initially offered financial support, but after the USSR promised funding at just 2% interest the other powers pulled out. Income from the Suez Canal following Nasser’s nationalisation of the waterway provided further funds for the construction of the dam.
The completed dam is almost 4km long and 111 metres tall. The 550km long reservoir created when it was flooded is known as Lake Nasser, and holds 132 cubic kilometres of water. The creation of the reservoir forced the relocation of over 100,000 people and a number of archaeological sites that would otherwise have been lost beneath the water.