In 1997, the Egyptian government approved the Toshka project to help deal with the rapidly growing population of the country. Toshka, and the associated Mubarak Pumping station, will become the world’s largest water-moving facility, serving a record number of people and it will also help in establishing industrial and residential towns in the neighboring regions, providing a boost to the economy.
The Toshka Project was officially inaugurated at a ceremony on Jan. 9, 1997 by President Mubarak. The project entails building a series of canals and a pumping station to carry water from Lake Nassar to irrigate portions of the western desert of Egypt. If successful, it is expected that the recovered land will become home to over three million residents by 2020. The “new valley” will increase Egypt’s arable land area by 10%. Only after conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment did the Egyptian government decide to go ahead with this ambitious project.
Mubarak Pumping Station - A Civil Engineering Wonder
At the center of the project is the Mubarak Pumping Station which cost $436 million to build and which was completed in March 2005. It
is located in the center of the lake and is completely surrounded by water.
It has 24 vertical pumps which are installed in two parallel lines along both sides of the station. The pumps are load-controlled and have adjustable speed settings. At any one time, only 18 of the pumps are running. Three are used for maintenance needs, and three are kept in reserve. The station, with an open 50 meter deep intake channel, the deepest inland channel of its kind, will make the complex able to pump 1.2 million cubic meters of water per hour. The canal channel is about 30 meters wide, being dug out of rock and sand. The channel is called the Sheikh named after Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). UAE is financially backing this project, which means financially the project has all the support one can imagine.
This accomplishment in itself is impressive. However, the Mubarak Pumping Station is praised by civil and mechanical engineers for two other, less obvious, reasons. First of all, the structural system that supports the station is made up of steel mini-piles, which are cost-effective and earthquake resistant. Traditional concrete piles would have been very expensive to use in this location. The steel mini-piles are installed at the base of the pumping station. They connect the station to a foundation raft. With this construction, the piles are free to tense against any seismic movement. They also offer some resistance to shearing forces.
Secondly, the underwater areas of the station use a jointless design. This design means that the structure is watertight even at a temperature range from 0 to 50 degrees C. Joints are only used above the normal high water level of the lake. Because of these two engineering achievements, the Mubarak Pumping Station was recognized, when it was completed in 2005, by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the five most outstanding civil engineering achievements of the year.
The Mubarak Pumping Station was sponsored by the Government of Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. The design of the station was completed as a joint venture project between Hamza Associates and Lahmeyer. Finally, the construction of the station was completed by Arabian International, Skanska, and Hitachi.
The Toshka Project, with the Mubarak Pumping Station in particular, is truly an engineering wonder that, when complete, will better the lives of millions of people. Long-term, the project is planned to allow Egypt to meet all of its own food requirements in addition to providing agricultural exports.
Status in 2011
In 2011, Egypt saw one the greatest public and political movement in its history. President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, and the country was engulfed by political and economic woes. Many controversies arose around the Mubarak Pumping Station as well, with most of them related to the financial holdings of the dethroned former President. A land dispute between the Egypt government and Saudi Arab’s Kingdom Holdings put a temporary hold on the project development after the rebellion of February 11, 2011.
As the pumping station was named after the former President, some people believe that tho name of world’s largest water-moving facility should be changed. Considering the current issues in front of Egyptian leaders, which are making things better in the country both politically and economically, completion of the Toshka Project and Mubarak Pumping Station by 2020 is going to be a serious challenge for the leaders of the nation. If this project is completed in time, it will become a testimony to the fighting spirit of Egyptians.