I was sorely tempted the other day to draw parallels between the Aswan High Dam in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Arab Republic of Egypt and what’s soon to become Stiegler’s Gorge Dam in Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s United Republic of Tanzania.
One such parallel is that the lead contractor in the Aswan-High Dam on the Nile, the world’s longest international river (about 6 ,6 5 0k m/4 ,130m) in the 196 0s, the Egyptian parastatal Arab Contractors Company, is the same contractor to design and build the Stiegler’s Gorge Dam across the Rufiji River in Tanzania.
Historians tell us the Egyptian state company has implemented assorted projects, including motorways ( Cairo Regional Ring Road; Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road); airports (Luxor, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Nador and Yasser Arafat International Airports), as well as Borg El Arab Stadium, and Bib liotheca Alexandrina, a major library and cultural centre in Alexandria.
This is, of course, to say nothing of the Aswan High Dam and the upcoming Stiegler’s Dam in Tanzania.. .
A second ‘parallel’ is that both projects were conceived at more-or-less the same time in the mid-1900s.
However, while construction of the proposed Stiegler’s Dam in Tanzania is just about to begin nearly 60 years down the ‘Conception Road,’ construction of Aswan-High begun in 1960.
That was when on a date like today’s, January 9, 1960 – Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (1918– 1970) ‘ceremoniously opened’ the dam’s construction by detonating ten tonnes of dynamite to demolish twenty tonnes of granite on the east bank of River Nile.
[ Will it be necessary for the Tanzania President, Chemist Dr John Magufuli to detonate dynamite or whatever to scare away ‘buffs’ and other wildlife from the Stiegler’s Dam construction site in the UNESCO-declared World-Heritage Selous Game Reserve? Oh; I don’t k now . . . ! ]
Construction of Aswan- High (at a cost of US$1.12b n in those days, supplied by USSR President Nikita Kruschchev: 18 94 - 1971) was completed on July 21, 1970, with the reservoir reaching capacity in 1976 ! Named ‘Lake Nasser’, the reservoir is 550k m ( 34 0mi) long and 35 k m ( 22mi) at its w idest.
It has a surface area of 5,250sq.km (2,030sq mi), and holds 132cu.km (1.7 3× 1011cu.yd) of water.
The Aswan-High has three major benefits for Egypt: floods control; irrigation farming and hydropower generation.
By comparison, the Stiegler’s Gorge hydropower project in Tanzania, projected to be commissioned in 2021 with an installed capacity of 2,113MW, would have cost some US$3.6 b n at today’s exchange rates: three times the Aswan-High Dam’s cost 60+ years ago!
Whether the dam waters will be used in irrigation farming is highly debatable as are the issues, moot or not, of over-flooding or ruinous drought, compliments (? ) of the clearly relentless Global Climate Change.. .
Another parallel.. . ?
Both the Aswan-High and Stiegler’s Dam projects have about the same electricity- generating capacity: 2,100MW for Aswan-High; 2,113MW for Stiegler’s.. .
At present, around 36 million out of Tanzania’s 55 million population have no access to reliable electricity.
If and when commissioned, Stiegler’s would more than double the country’s installed generating capacity.
Oh, I nearly forgot.. .
The Aswan High Dam is so
named because there was/ is an Aswan Low Dam that was in place very much earlier, constructed between 1899 and 1902.
Perhaps better known as the ‘Old Aswan Dam,’ that facility was basically constructed “to provide storage of annual floodwaters, and augment dry season flows to support greater irrigation development and population growth in the lower Nile.. . ”
But, opportunity was also taken to ‘squeeze’ hydropower out of the project, namely Aswan-I ( commissioned in 1960) and Aswan-II (1985 - 86 ) with a combined generation capacity of 592MW.. .
How ever, in due course of time and events, the Aswan Low Dam was succeeded (? ) by the Aswan High some six kilometres upstream.
When all is said and done, Stiegler’s Gorge power plant has been one of the most controversial infrastructural projects in and for Tanzania.
Ecologists in particular and some development partners in general have vehemently opposed the project on the grounds that its implementation could damage the World Heritage site, namely the Selous Game Reserve.
But the proposed project is designed to use only about three (3) percent of the 50,000 square kilometre wildlife sanctuary.
Defending the project at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Poland in July 2017, a delegation of the Tanzania Government led by the permanent secretary in the Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry, Major-General Gaudence Milanzi, said “It should be noted that, at the time of inscribing the (Selous Game) Reserve in 1982, the International Union for Conservation of Nature considered that the Stiegler’s Gorge project was of no serious environmental concern given the vast size of the property.”
[ See ‘ Tanzania continues with Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric project;’ ESI-AFRICA, Africa’s Power Journal: July 11, 2 017 ] .
Where does that leave us, pray.. . ? Upbeat, I guess.. . Cheers, Aswan High; Cheers, Stiegler’s Baby!