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Construction begins on world’s tallest dam

Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan

Work has begun on the world’s tallest dam, situated on the Vakhsh River in Tajikistan.

The 335m high dam, which is located between the Trans-Alay Mountain Range to the north and the Pamir Mountains to south, is part of the Rogun hydropower project (HPP) and is set to double the country’s power production. 

The $3.9bn (£3.1bn) dam is being built by Italian contractor Salini Impregilo and will involve diverting the river and using 74M.m3 of earth and rock to form an impermeable core.

Salini Impregilo said that the Rogun HPP was essential to combat the power outages that occurred in winter, cutting off light and heating to thousands of houses. The project could also contribute to the development of agriculture, allowing for a more efficient use of water for irrigation.

However, the Italian giant said that the biggest impact would be the country’s potential to sell excess energy to neighbouring countries, saying that Pakistan and Afghanistan had already offered to buy part of the energy produced by Rogun. It is thought that other nearby countries would be likely to do the same.

The company said that this process had already begun as a parallel project had been launched to modernise the power grid linking Tajikistan to Pakistan, an additional way of taking Rogun’s electricity outside of the country.

Due to the scale of the project, construction has been divided into four lots, from the dam to the hydroelectric plant. The first lot involves the diversion of the Vakhsh River through two tunnels in a mountainside to keep the foundations of the dam dry.

Salini Impregilo said that this was a complex task that, because of the strength of the river, could only be undertaken during the winter months when the mountains were covered in snow and the water level was lower.

Once completed, the plant’s energy will be produced by six, 600MW turbines that will have an installed power of 3,600MW when operating at full capacity.

Completion of phase one is expected by April 2019, when two of the six turbines will become operational. Salini Impregilo said that it expected one of the turbines would be producing electricity by the end of 2018. The company added that it would then take a further seven and a half years to complete the installation of 61.2M.m3 of rock and other material, taking the record from the Jinping-I Dam in China, which stands at 305m, to be the tallest dam in the world.

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