Aswan Dam Facts: Know About The World's Largest Embankment Dam

Tanya Parkhi
Mar 20, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Mar 20, 2023
Fact-checked by Shadiya Ahammad
Aswan High Dam view in Egypt

The Aswan High Dam is a rock-fill dam that was constructed in the Nile delta in Egypt.

It was built to control the annual Nile floods, which depending on the year, would either bless the Egyptian countryside with plentiful irrigation water or rip through the riverside villages and leave mass destruction in its path. British engineers, aided by the Egyptian government, began the construction process in 1898.

The construction of this dam led to the creation of Lake Nasser, which subsequently led to the completion of the Aswan High Dam power plant. The dam helped generate hydroelectric power which led to the expansion of agricultural lands and projects. All these aspects helped strengthen the Egyptian economy.

Construction Of Aswan Dam

An old dam, the Aswan Low Dam, was initially built to control the Nile river. However, the Nile river is infamous for its yearly flooding, which prior to the building of the Aswan High Dam, caused mass destruction. Over half of the water was reported as being wastefully dumped into the ocean.

The Nile provided water to almost all of Egypt; hence the drainage of such a huge amount of water was seen as a waste. Due to its dependability, the Nile valley has been a prime location for agriculture since ancient times.

These floods delivered large amounts of water with natural fertilizers and minerals that annually improved the fertile soil in its floodplain and delta. The British decided to build the first Aswan Dam in 1898.

Sir William Willcocks oversaw the construction of the Aswan Low Dam, and it was officially completed in 1902. It required 34,000 workers and around 44 million cubic meters of building materials to complete.

By controlling the flow of river, the dam helped prevent excessive floods to an extent and helped provide water for irrigation all year long, nearly doubling agricultural output.

However, even with the barrier in place, the annual late-summer flooding of the Nile continued to flow unhindered down the river from its East African drainage basin before the High Dam was built.

However, the natural flooding varied since high water levels could wipe out the entire crop while low water levels could lead to widespread drought and result in famine. The need and capability to entirely control flooding emerged as both Egypt's population and technological advancements progressed.

Protecting and supporting farmland and its economically significant cotton crop was the need of the hour. The proposed construction of the Aswan High Dam would significantly expand reservoir storage, which allowed for flood control and water storage for extended periods. The reservoir could be dipped into during times of need. 

Hence, in 1952, officials settled on the idea of building a larger dam. The government requested money from the World Bank in 1954 to proceed with the project. Prior attempts to to request funds for different portions of the project from the US and the UK failed.

The US, then the UK dropped out of funding the project, and they were soon followed by the World Bank. The project finally came to fruition in 1958 after the then-Soviet Union provided Egypt with the necessary funding.

Construction on the second stage of the dam began, which led to the formation of the reservoir Lake Nasser, which was named after the president of Egypt at the time, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The dam, which was finished in 1902, was raised twice between 1907 and 1912, then twice more between 1929 and 1933 to further reduce flooding of the Nile. Today, the Aswan Dam holds 4,661.53 ft3 (132 km3) of water and is among the largest embankments in the world.

Importance Of Aswan Dam

As of 2023, Egypt's tourism and fishing sectors are still benefitting from the dam. Half of Egypt's energy needs are met by 12 power turbines that are fed by water from the dam.

The hydroelectricity generated helped to bring electricity to many Egyptian villages and also contributed heavily to industrial and household use. During droughts, the reservoir also contributes to the water supply.

The construction of the Aswan High Dam also made more irrigated land available for agriculture, which is used to grow cotton, rice, wheat, and sugar cane. The construction of the new Aswan High Dam also helped control upstream flows, which increased the Old Aswan Hydropower Stations' efficiency and range.

Overall, the Aswan High Dam has increased the area of liveable land for families and has improved the agricultural yield of the country. Additionally, it has provided security by controlling yearly floods and helped supply electricity even to remote areas by supplying hydroelectric power to both households and industries.

If the dam were to burst, it would cause an immense amount of water to gush down from Lake Nasser, which would most likely destroy everything in its path. Lake Nasser is said to hold the same amount of water if the Nile were to flood twice.

The speed with which the stored water would flow out of the dam could wipe out every village, farm, and city in the vicinity.

Aswan High Dam view in Egypt

Unique Features Of Aswan Dam

Although the Aswan High Dam is not the largest dam in the world as of 2023 (with the title belonging to the Three Goerges Dam in China), it is still among the largest embankments in the world. It keeps the Nile, which is a river of both substantial length and volume, in check.

The Aswan High Dam is said to be 430 ft (130 m) deep at its deepest point.

Negative Effects Of Aswan Dam

While the Aswan High Dam was built with good intentions, it was not all smooth sailing along the way. Many people and villages were displaced to start the construction of the dam, including the Nubian people.

Even decades after the dam was built, Nubian people still continue to suffer from the consequences of the Aswan Dam project. This is because their home in Sudan is constantly under the threat of displacement and flooding due to the construction of multiple newer dams in the area.

The effects of the dam in Eygpt are not all good either.

In the years following the completion of the dam, environmentalists have observed that the soil fertility in the areas in its vicinity has experienced a loss in soil fertility.

In the long term, this could lead to a decrease in the area of irrigated land available, lower production of silt, a rise in water stagnancy, sinking of the river delta, a rise in the water table, and a decrease in the population of certain fish species, which may lead to their extinction.

There has been a visible decline in fish production because the dam has adversely affected the natural ecosystem of the Nile river.


Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly factsfor everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Aswan Dam Facts then why not take a look at Hoover Dam or History Of Notre Dame?

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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Fact-checked by Shadiya Ahammad

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in India and World Literature

Shadiya Ahammad picture

Shadiya AhammadBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts specializing in India and World Literature

A skilled writer and content creator with a postgraduate degree in English literature from the University of Calicut, Shadiya has also completed a Master of Arts in World Literature from Widya Dharma University and studied English Language and Literature at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. With her educational background and four years of experience in content writing, Shadiya has developed excellent research, communication, and writing skills, which she brings to her work every day. Her passion for language extends beyond her professional work, as she enjoys studying Arabic and Spanish in her free time.

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