Map of Egypt

The Aswan High Dam

One major example of the social impacts of large dams is the Aswan Dam in Egypt. The Aswan dam, a rock-fill dam across the Nile River, was “completed in the cost of about $1 billion” ( of the greatest engineering projects ever executed, with a bulk 16 times that of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

Creation of the reservoir, now known as Lake Nasser, necessitated the relocation of approximately one million Egyptian peasants and Sudanese Nubians. These people lost their homeland and were dispersed to the “less fertile government lands in Upper Egypt and Eastern Sudan” (

Lake Nasser, the reservoir created by the Aswan Dam
Not only is this a travesty to the people losing their homes, but it is also a great loss to historians and archaeologists worldwide, as the Nubian civilization is one of the oldest and greatest civilizations in Africa. Following the flooding of Lake Nasser, the world’s third largest reservoir, great Nubian monuments and historical sites were drowned and lost forever, despite ambitious rescue operations from organizations like UNESCO. Luckily, some great monuments, such as the temples of Abu Simbel, were saved.
Temple of Abu Simbel, moved due to Lake Nasser

In 1997, UNESCO opened the Nubia Museum, in Aswan, which presents “a complete display of the Nubian region civilization and its cultural heritage” (Museum Website).The museum is devoted to the Egyptian part of Nubia, or Lower Nubia, which was entirely drowned by the waters of Lake Nasser, after the building of the Aswan dam. As the country no longer exists, the museum displays the objects and monuments which were saved before the flooding of the dam.

However, the Aswan Dam does have its benefits: the annual Nile flood is now controlled by man “for the first time in history” (, the flood water is impounded to irrigate thousands of new acres of land, the dam generates enormous amounts of hydroelectricity, and the reservoir supports a fishing industry. And, although the amount of productive land on the banks was increased, the annual floods used to bring rich, fertile silt down the river, and there is now a danger of the Nile soil becoming unfertile. In fact, before the Aswan Dam, the Nile River carried approximately 124 million tons of sediment to the sea every year. Now, 98% of that sediment remains behind the dam. The water table is rising in the Nile valley, causing major erosion of the foundations of the ancient temples and monuments.

Read an article debating the advantages and disadvantages of the Aswan High Dam.

Learn about the Nubians