Completion of the Aswan Dam

From a historical point of view, the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 meant the beginning of a new age for hydraulic engineering, driven not least by British interests in raw materials such as cotton. Alongside the repair and maintenance of existing hydraulic works, the British conceived the Aswan Dam as the backbone of a new system of irrigation. Erected between 1899–1902, the dam improved on previous nineteenth-century efforts aimed at achieving perennial irrigation.

The Aswan Dam was soon integrated into a complex supra-regional Nile system, to which political developments in Egypt brought considerable disruption. It took a revolution in 1952 and the ensuing fall of the Egyptian monarchy as well as the end of British domination of the Nile, for Egypt to establish a national water strategy relying solely on dams and irrigation schemes in Egyptian territory. The Aswan High Dam, completed in 1970, remains the most visible sign of this paradigm shift.

Further Readings: 
  • Tvedt, Terje. The River Nile in the Age of the British: Political Ecology and the Quest for Economic Power. London: I. B. Tauris, 2004.