Mankind has had the art and knowledge to regulate the immense power of water and use it economically for over 5000 years. The “Dam of the Gentiles” (Sadd-el-Kafara) in Wadi Garawi in Upper Egypt is the oldest dam in the world. Its 24 meter high outer walls were erected in the early third millennium before the beginning of our era. Since then, the maximum heights of the world’s largest dams have increased more than tenfold.
Asia is the undisputed leader in the world’s largest dams
Of the 10 largest dams currently under construction in the world, four are located in China alone. These are the Shuangjiangkou Dam (312 meters), the Jinping Dam (305 meters), the Lianghekou Dam (295 meters) and the Baihetan Dam (277 meters), all of which are located in Sichuan Province. The People’s Republic is therefore the global leader in terms of such structures.
The highest dam in the world at 300 meters is the Nurek dam near the city of Norak in the Chatlon province in Tajikistan. However, it could receive future competition from the planned Bachtiari dam in the province of Lorestan in Iran, the targeted height of which is to be 315 or even 325 meters in 2016. Already in operation in China is the second highest dam in the world with 292 meters, the Xiaowan dam on the Mekong / Lancang is in the province of Yunnan. India has also had an impressive 261-meter-high dam since 2002, and the Tehri Dam, built between 1978 and 2002, is located near the town of the same name in the west of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The largest dams in America and Europe are in Mexico and Switzerland
The highest dam on the American continent can be found in Mexico, the Manuel M. Torres Dam (Presa Manuel M. Torres / Presa Chicoasén), built between 1974 and 1980, is 261 meters high and is located not far from Tuxtla Gutiérrez on the Río Grijalva in the southern province of Chiapas. At 285 meters, however, the Grande Dixence dam at Lac des Dix south of Sion in the Hérens district (Canton of Valais) in Switzerland is significantly higher and also much older (construction period 1926-1934).
Another powerful dam in the Confederation no longer belongs to the Top 10. The dam at Lac de Mauvoisin, built between 1951 and 1957, is 250 meters high and is located in the rear Val de Bagnes, also in the canton of Valais. The 261 meter high Vajont dam near Longarone in the province of Belluno in Italy was one of the historically highest dams in the world in Europe. After a landslide followed by a tsunami in 1963, in the course of which around 2,000 people lost their lives, the reservoir was completely drained, but the wall can still be viewed today.