Lesson 6.2: Did the Aswan High Dam Tame or Kill the Nile River?
• Students will locate the Nile River and the site of the future Aswan Dam on historical maps
• They will explain why the dam was built and what benefits it promised to Egyptian development
• They will describe the geo-politics of its international financing during the Cold War
• They will identify individuals involved in the dam’s planning, construction and impact studies.
• They will list environmental effects of the dam
• They will assess the costs and benefits of the dam and take positions on whether it should have been built or not
• Slideshare presentation “The Controversy of The Aswan High Dam.” http://www.slideshare.net/TheBabyKangaroo/the-controversy-of-the-aswan-high-dam
• Optional: Arsenault, Natalie, et al. “People and Place: Curriculum Resources on Human-Environmental Interactions, ‘Aswan High Dam (Egypt).’” University of Texas, Austin, 2007 at http://www.outreachworld.org/Files/u_texas/aswan_high_dam.pdf
Lesson Plan Text
1. Distribute Student Handout 6.2.1 either electronically or in printed form. Have students do the activities and view the images in the handout that give background on construction of the dam and its aftermath and environmental impacts.
2. Discuss the location of Aswan and why it was chosen, when the idea arose and why the Aswan High Dam was built. It may help to show a satellite map of Egypt to remind them of the desert location of Egypt with the only fertile area along the banks of the Nile.
3. To describe the environmental impact, view slideshare presentation “The Controversy of The Aswan High Dam.” http://www.slideshare.net/TheBabyKangaroo/the-controversy-of-the-aswan-high-dam. You can also use the lesson by Arsenault, Natalie, Christopher Rose, Allegra Azulay, and Jordan Phillips. “People and Place: Curriculum Resources on Human-Environmental Interactions, ‘Aswan High Dam (Egypt).’” University of Texas, Austin, 2007 at http://www.outreachworld.org/Files/u_texas/aswan_high_dam.pdf, which draws connections to other dams in the world with similar impact.
4. After completing the lessons, stage a debate on the costs and benefits of the Aswan Dam. One group argues for and one against the dam, including political, economic, demographic and environmental issues. In conclusion, evaluate the debate itself, asking instead what might have happened if the dam had not been built, knowing the history of famine in Egypt’s history when the floods failed, and discussing the modern expansion of Egypt’s population. How did it impact the ability of oil-poor Egypt to generate electricity for domestic and industrial uses? In what ways did Egypt’s development scheme after independence rely on both the Aswan Dam and the Suez Canal? Even given the environmental impacts, would Egypt have been able to risk not building the dam? Finally, have students research recent discussion of Ethiopian plans to dam the Blue Nile. How would this impact Egypt, and how could it create the threat of conflict between the two countries? What role does the Sudan play in the upstream issues related to the Nile. How many African countries are in the Nile watershed? [Answer: 10] What impacts has the dam had upstream? How will climate change affect the Nile? Have students locate them on a map and name them.
5. Extension: Students may be given access to additional readings: Science 2010 article: http://groupjazz.gjhost.com/~gj/LIB/ITEMS/5006/252/031910_Science-The_Nile_Delta's_Sinking_Future.pdf; John McNeill, “Something new under the sun,” (2000), pp. 166-177; Jack Kalpakian, Identity, Conflict and Cooperation in International River Systems (2004), pp. 28-97