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Back in the Day: Egypt begins its quest to control the Nile


Back in the Day: Egypt begins its quest to control the Nile

January 9, 1960 Work begins on the construction of the Aswan High Dam, Egypt’s plan to control the power of the world’s longest river, the Nile. The High Dam was built just upstream from an existing, less effective dam completed in 1902, with the intention of preventing yearly floods and occasional droughts as well as to provide the hydro-electric power needed for Egypt’s industrialisation. Both the USSR and the USA initially hoped to help finance the dam as a means of winning favour with Egypt, which was neutral in the Cold War. In the end Egypt chose the Soviet Union as its partner for the project and the USSR sent technicians and engineers to oversee construction. Since opening in 1970, the dam and the resulting Lake Nasser reservoir have succeeded in controlling the Nile’s water and generate an enormous 2100 megawatts of electricity through hydro-electric power. But there have been negative consequences: more than a hundred thousand Nubian peasants had to be relocated, many of them hundreds of kilometres away from their homes. It has also impacted on the environment by depriving local soil of rich natural nutrients and eroding Mediterranean coastlines.

Also on January 9: Admiral Horatio Nelson is given a state funeral in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral (1806); Umberto I becomes King of Italy (1878); the ocean liner RMS Queen Elizabeth is destroyed by fire in Hong Kong (1972).

Born on January 9: Simone de Beauvoir (1908), Richard Nixon (1913), Lee Van Cleef (1925), Joan Baez (1941), Dave Matthews (1967), Sergio García (1980).