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Dam Or Damn The Nile? Dusko Jocic (November 1st, 2005)

I have recently returned from my amazing travels down the River Nile in Egypt and what I have seen has left me absolutely breathless. I am not refering to the palaces and temples built by the Egyptians during the early, middle and late kingdoms of Ancient Egypt. The structure in question is the Aswan High Dam. Built in joint co-operation between Egypt and the Former USSR, the dam was to provide power for Egypt And Sudan as they began to become fully developed and industrialized nations. It has increased the amount of fertile lands, created

Photo Credit: Cafetrip.com
Aswan Dam Monument
a fish industry in lake Nasser and created untold thermoelectric power. This seems fine on the surface, but I bet you are wondering what this has to do with peak oil?

When the dam was completed the vital nutrients and minerals that once flooded the fertile plains along the shores of the Nile stopped arriving to the farm fields. This left the farmers that depend on this mighty river dependent on their polital leaders. It was decided that oil based fertilizers would now be used to make the fields along the Nile, bloom. In essence, the farmers have lost the power to control their own livelihood and now depend on oil based fertilizer products. Egypt was a net energy exporter during the 1990's and will have to import much of it's energy by the end of the current decade. More than 68 million people in Egypt rely on the Nile to produce their food. Other arab nations also rely on that food for their own sustainability. But this will become a fragile situation when global peak oil arrives.

Egypt has 3 billion barrels of proven reserves and it has peaked over ten years ago. Man has
taken the Nile, an ecosystem that has provided fertile food for civilization after civilization and
destroyed its benefits by building the Aswan High Dam. As I took a cruise boat up the Nile from
Aswan up to Luxor I pondered if the farmers on the plains around me knew their fate and how the government is leading them down the road to ruins? What will happen when country buckles under the threat of peak oil? Will the dam be dismantled and the fertile silt that floods the riverbeds be returned to its annual cycles?

Besides the potential for a great famine, there is also great danger in the dams destruction. Constructing the dam used 18 times the amount of material as was used in the Great Pyramid of Cheops and if the dam were to be destroyed by a military attack or terrorists Egypt would be wiped off the face of the earth. Tens of millions of people would be killed as the entire volume of Lake Nasser came crashing at them. Egyptians need to be warned before it is too late. When the dam was completed

Photo Credit: Cafetrip.com
Farming The Nile
one million people were displaced and the land of Nubia was gone forever under Lake Nasser. One of the oldest civilizations and cultures was destroyed in the name of progress. But this advancement my just have the opposite effect.

Not only does 98% of the fertile silt stays trapped behind the dam. Many ancient Egyptian temples are now also under the waves of Lake Nasser. Testaments to human history and the awesome renewable power of the Nile are now buried under that water. Egyptians will need to figure out how to lower their population numbers or re-introduce the nutrients into their farmlands. It's a tough choice but it is far more likely that the floods will return and the comforts of elecricity will be sacrificed for the necessities of life.

By: Dusko Jocic


References:
http://biz.yahoo.com/ifc/eg.html
http://carbon.cudenver.edu/stc-link/aswan1/
http://www.arch.mcgill.ca/prof/sijpkes/arch374/winter2001/dbiggs/aswan.html

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