Sustainability of dams and reservoirs on the rivers


1.1 Introduction

For human wellbeing, there are different activities and planning has been done that support in managing life through optimum utilization of the resources. The health of humanity is closely linked with the environment and people need to maintain sustainability. There are many industrial and infrastructure development activities that have taken place and hurting the environment which directly influence the health of the population (Poff, and Olden, 2017). However, the infrastructure development and planning of the operations considering the future needs and development opportunities are leading to many high-expectation projects. In the current scenario, water storage and conservation have become important aspects for the local and national government. There are many international dams and reservoirs projects are going around the world that are beneficial for the long term planning of the nations as well as managing hydropower. The major aims of developing these projects for dam and reservoirs across valleys and river to store, regulate and divert water for various purpose. The store water is useful for agriculture production, power generation, human and industrial use as well as protection from flood (George, Hotchkiss, and Huffaker, 2017).


These projects are having different benefits for nations and the local population as proper management of water is having a significant impact on the development opportunity of the particular area and maintain the supply of the water. However, the construction of large dams and reservoirs is having an impact on the ecological system of rivers and affect the human population. The consideration of sustainability standards and planning of the projects according to the international regulations of water management and construction of a dam can be helpful but internal planning and expectation of a particular nation are affecting the sustainability of such projects (Karami, and Karami, 2020). The major aspects that are having an adverse impact on the sustainable infrastructure development of dam and reservoirs project involving flow regime, sediment load and channel structure, water quality, biodiversity and changes in the internal regime of the rivers. According to Terêncio et al., (2018), the development of large dams and reservoirs is hurting the environmental balance as it reduces the seasonal variability of flow, changes the frequency and timing of flood, possible coastal erosion and affects the quality of the water. However, there are various advantages of developing the dams and reservoirs such as generation of electricity, irrigation purpose, tourist purpose, diversifying the flow of rivers to protect the cities and controlling the floods. The project of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is under construction and considered one of the largest dams. The major purpose of developing this reservoir is to generate electricity. The dam project is located on the river Nile and the Gumuz Region of Ethiopia. The dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa and the seventh-largest in the world (Ahmed, 2019). The project is having many benefits for the local population but it creating a threat for nearby countries and influence the ecological balance. The neighbour nations are against the project and looking for a legally binding agreement with Ethiopia for managing the sustainability and how the disputes will be resolved in the future.

1.2 Background of the study

International project management is the process of managing the international projects that attached to different borders and culture. For the completion of these project, specific skills and knowledge is required that involve standards, legal approach, benefits and risk related to the project. There are various international projects are going on and having different aim and objectives for a particular location or nation. However, the proper management of these international projects is involving various challenges such as environmental impact, lack of long term orientation and uncertainty. The current research will analyze the significance and sustainability of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) which is under construction and cost around $4.7 billion. The project is beneficial for Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Egypt is holding major ownership in this project from the Nile River. The country depends on the Nile for 90% of its water needs. The dam is the major source for power generation up to 6000MW and having a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters. Moreover, the dam will be capable of handling a flood of 19,370 cubic meters per second. The main dam will be 145m high and 1708m long. The surface area of the reservoir is 1680m2 at the full supply level. Each gate of the dam is having the capacity to discharge 2450m3/s of water. There are two outdoor power stations with an installed capacity of 3750 and 2250MW (About GERD project, 2011).

1.3 Research problem

Dams and reservoirs are one of the most important projects and helping the local population or a nation to manage the water and generate the renewable emery. To control the floods, improve hydropower energy and development of civilization the role of dams and reservoirs is vital. However, some issues influence the significance of the dams and reservoirs as they have a negative impact on the environment and affect the ecological balance. The current research is based on the GERD which is one of the largest dams and used for generating hydropower for Egypt and controlling the floods. The major problems that will be analyzed through the study involve the issues related to sustainability. The construction of such large dams and reservoirs is having a significant impact on land, greenhouse gas control, upstream fish movement, normal passing ways of territorial animals and quality of water. Moreover, the sustainability issues are involving changes in the water regime, destruction of nature, changes in the waterways of rivers and lead to an earthquake. In addition to this, the environmental changes that have a direct impact on the ecological aspects are involving regional climate change, improvement in moisture percentage, air temperature and changes in topography. The proper understanding and identification of these issues can be helpful for construction and maintaining the standards that could support balancing the environmental conditions.

1.4 research aim and objectives


The study aims to analyze the sustainability of dams and reservoirs on the rivers considering the international project of GERD on the Nile River.


To understand the importance of international project management in dams and reservoirs

To determine the significance of GERD dams and reservoir on rivers

To study the sustainability of GERD dams and their impact on the environment

1.5 Research questions

1. How dams and reservoirs can benefit from international project management?

2. What is the importance of the GERD dam and reservoir project for Egypt?

3. How can GERD affect sustainability and ecological balance?


2.1 International project management for dam and reservoirs

The construction industry is using different tools and techniques for maintaining high standards and minimization of risk in the design and development of dams and reservoirs. The proper planning and understanding of legal, political, geographical and environmental standards are beneficial for the project teams to meet the goals of the project. According to Lambrechts, Platje, and Van Dam, (2019), the major priorities of a project team for the construction of dam and reservoirs involve gaining the public acceptance, assessment of all options for developing a blueprint, sustaining rivers and livelihoods, recognition of entitlements and share benefits across the international borders, ensuring compliance and maintaining quality. The development of an action plan using project management tools and approaches is beneficial for project teams. As per the views of Asveld, and van Dam-Mieras, (2017), the project management techniques like the Critical Path Method (CPM). Program Evaluation and Review Techniques (PERT), Agile and Prince 2 help develop the plan. The consideration of these tools is allowing the project teams to understand the progress, identification of risks, planning of the strategy to maintain the quality and ensure compliance with the international standards. The leading construction organizations are using these techniques for developing the design and construction operation management of dams and reservoirs.

The major benefits of international project management is involving close alignment, reasonable variances, managing the uncertainty, improvement in the sustainability and quality standards to meet the goals. According to Al-Janabi et al., (2020), the dams and reservoirs are involving higher risk at development and post-development. The proper identification of major issues related to environmental and geographical aspects can help develop the plan and make use of resources that increase the standards. Apart from this, the use of project management tools and approaches for the construction of dam and reservoirs is having a positive impact on cost minimization as effective planning and distribution of resources to team members increase efficiency. However, the lack of project management actions and planning is leading to many issues like changes in quality and lack of sustainability.

2.2 Importance of GERD dam

There is the various significance of developing the dams and reservoirs on rivers that help to manage the water and flood in the particular areas. According to Emami, and Koch, (2018), the GERD dam is one of the largest dams in the world and having the capacity of generating more than 6000MW electricity. The major benefits of the design and development of GERD are hydropower production and increasing the electricity power for Egypt which is very essential for the country's development. It would act like stabilizing the backbone of the Ethiopian national grid and the nation will be able to export the electricity. The nearby countries like Sudan will also get the benefits of the development of GERD. The export and sales of electricity will help the country for increasing the foreign currency amount and maintaining the growth in the GDP level. Apart from this, the development of a dam will help to channel the water resources and planning of the new activities for local people to increase employment. It will help to promote water tourism, fishing and improvement in the agriculture activities in nearby places that will help strengthen the internal economy of Ethiopia (Azimi Sardari et al., 2019). The expected fishing harvesting from the dam is 7000 tonnes.

The reservoir is three times bigger than Lake Tana and helps to maintain the water supply in the country. Apart from this, in the rainy season, the country will be able to generate surplus electricity that will help industrial development and growth as the authority will be able to provide low-cost electricity to them. The power generation and improvement in agriculture will be the major benefits of GERD. Apart from this, development and project management authorities are looking forward to developing the place as a tourist destination which will help to attract local and international visitors (Zhang, et al., 2016). The improvement in the numbers of visitors will help to encourage the GDP of the country and enhance the opportunities for local business and people to earn a livelihood.

2.3 Sustainability issues and environmental impact

The development of dams and reservoirs is beneficial and increase the capabilities of countries through effective management of water of rivers. According to Ahmed, (2019), the lack of planning and development of large dams and reservoir is harming the environment. The sustainability issues are having a major impact on the ecological balance and legal compliance for international projects. The GERD is one of the largest dams in the world and having a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters. The development of a dam with such capacity is requiring a large area of land and water supply. The dam is going to be built over the Nile River which is one of the major sources of water in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The development of such reservoir will control the large amount of water that will influence the ecological balance (Controversy over GERD, 2020). The major sustainability issues that might have a threat for Ethiopia and nearby nations involve changes in the water quality, high risk of earthquake due to changes in the nature of soil due to the stoppage of water. The control over the water using such reservoir can lead to flood and influence the level of groundwater in other countries. As per the views of Karami, and Karami, (2020), the Egyptian government is having serious concerns over the development of the dam but Ethiopia has denied all concerns and continued to build the dam. The international panel of expert has reviewed the progress of the dam and identified the future implications. The major sustainability issues involve improvement in the temperature, improve the greenhouse gas impact and create the barrier in the supply of water to other countries. The water soil nutrient will be down and affect the agriculture habits of the nations (Lambrechts, Platje, and Van Dam, 2019). The changes in regional topology will also influence the stagnant and big scaled mass of water.


3.1 Research philosophy

To conduct the research in a specific manner, it is essential to apply an appropriate philosophy. The research philosophy helps develop a strong theoretical background and provides the understanding related to the topic of the study. There majorly two types of philosophies are used as positivism and interpretive. The interpretive philosophy is applied when the researcher is collecting and analyzing the statistical data for satisfying the objectives of the study. Apart from this, positivism philosophy is used when the research is based on the previous studies and supporting the outcome of the findings (Ørngreen, and Levinsen, 2017). For the current study, the researcher will apply the positivism philosophy that will support in collecting the data related to the sustainability and planning of the project that could help to maintain environmental compliance. The proper consideration of standards and legal policies for the design and development of dam and reservoir for water conservation will help improve the sustainability and enhance the design of GERD.

2.2 Research design and methodology

For maintaining the research on the right track, the selection of an appropriate design helps satisfy the research questions and objectives. Three types of designs have been used for managing the research that involves descriptive, exploratory and casual. Descriptive design is used for satisfying the variables of the study and exploratory is applied for collecting the theoretical data for completing the study (Snyder, 2019). The casual design is a mix of both descriptive and exploratory design. For the current study, the researcher will apply the exploratory design for satisfying the research question and objectives. By considering this design, the researcher will collect the data related to the sustainability of GERD and provide information about the standards and policies that could help in increasing the ecological balance of developing such large dam and reservoirs.

There are two types of methodologies are used that involve qualitative and quantitative. For the current study, the researcher will apply both methods for collecting and analyzing the data for the sustainability of GERD. These methods will help the researcher to gain information related to issues that are influencing the environmental balance and affecting the geographical topologies (Kumar, 2018). These methods will help to gain realistic information about the risks and approaches of managing such projects and planning of the actions that could help in maintaining the standards and compliance with the sustainability policies. The subjective analysis and collection of data related to the design and development of GERD will help to increase sustainability.

2.3 Research strategy

To complete the research systematically, the consideration of research strategy is beneficial for planning and keeping the study on a right track. There are two types of strategies are used such as indicative and deductive. The inductive strategy is applied for collecting and analyzing the scientific data for the study. This type of strategy is used for developing new theories based on the data and considering secondary information. Apart from that, deductive strategy is used for proving the theories considering the primary data about the topic (Flick, 2015). For the current research, the deductive approach will be applied to analyze the sustainability and planning of international project like GERD. The consideration of deductive strategy will support in identifying the key sustainability standards for developing the dam and reservoirs. The theoretical consideration for controlling and channelling the water will help satisfy the aim and objectives of the study.

2.4 Sampling

To select and determine the sample for the study, two types of approaches are used that involve probability and non-probability. Probability sampling is applied when the researcher is having good knowledge of the population. However, this approach is time-consuming and increases the cost of study. Non-probability sampling refers to the selection of sample according to own convenience and choice. Here, the researcher is having the freedom for selecting the sample (Pandey, and Pandey, 2015). For the current study, the researcher will use non-probability sampling which will help to minimize the time and cost of the study. For the study, the researcher will conduct an interview with the project manager and distribute the questionnaire among the 10 managers of GERD to analyze the sustainability and major impact on the environment. Moreover, to maintain the ethical perspective, the researcher will collect prior consent from the participants.

2.5 Data collection

The collection of data is an important element of research. For the collection of data two types of methods have been used such as primary and secondary. The primary method is involving a survey, questionnaire, interview and observation. The secondary method is involving sources like books, journals, website and annual reports based on the topic (Mohajan, 2018). For the study of GERD sustainability, the researcher will apply both primary and secondary data collection methods. Primary data will be collected using the interview and survey methods as well as secondary data will be collected through website and article related to the sustainability of GERD.

2.6 Data analysis

To satisfy the aim and objectives of the study, the analysis of data and findings plays a critical role. To analyze the data collected through primary and secondary approaches, the researcher will use frequency distribution and graphical presentation technique. To analyze the secondary data, the researcher will apply different tests like correlation and Chi-square (Flick, 2015). The findings of these data analysis approaches will help satisfy the research questions related to the sustainability of GERD international project management.

2.7 Constraints

To complete the study professionally, the researcher needs to identify and mitigate the constraints. The major constraints of the study will involve time management and availability of participants as well as the lack of theoretical knowledge about the topic. The proper understanding of these will help to adopt an appropriate strategy that will influence the results and support in meeting the goals and objectives.

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2.8 Project plan

Project plan Project plan Gantt chart


Ahmed, M.T., 2019. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the sustainability of water resources: would monetary compensation warrant some more restrictions on dams?. Sustainable Water Resources Management, 5(3), pp.1327-1334.

Al-Janabi, A.M.S., Ghazali, A.H., Ghazaw, Y.M., Afan, H.A., Al-Ansari, N. and Yaseen, Z.M., 2020. Experimental and numerical analysis for earth-fill dam seepage. Sustainability, 12(6), p.2490.

Asveld, L. and van Dam-Mieras, R., 2017. Introduction: responsible research and innovation for sustainability. In Responsible Innovation 3 (pp. 1-6). Springer, Cham.

Azimi Sardari, M.R., Bazrafshan, O., Panagopoulos, T. and Sardooi, E.R., 2019. Modeling the impact of climate change and land use change scenarios on soil erosion at the Minab Dam Watershed. Sustainability, 11(12), p.3353.

Emami, F. and Koch, M., 2018. Sustainability Assessment of the Water Management System for the Boukan Dam, Iran, Using CORDEX-South Asia Climate Projections. Water, 10(12), p.1723.

Flick, U., 2015. Introducing research methodology: A beginner's guide to doing a research project.

George, M.W., Hotchkiss, R.H. and Huffaker, R., 2017. Reservoir sustainability and sediment management. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 143(3), p.04016077.

Karami, S. and Karami, E., 2020. Sustainability assessment of dams. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 22(4), pp.2919-2940.

Kumar, R., 2018. Research methodology: A step-by-step guide for beginners. Sage.

Lambrechts, W., Platje, J.J. and Van Dam, Y.K., 2019. Guest editorial: The university as an arena for sustainability transition. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 20(7), pp.1101-1108.

Mohajan, H.K., 2018. Qualitative research methodology in social sciences and related subjects. Journal of Economic Development, Environment and People, 7(1), pp.23-48.

Ørngreen, R. and Levinsen, K., 2017. Workshops as a Research Methodology. Electronic Journal of E-learning, 15(1), pp.70-81.

Pandey, P. and Pandey, M., 2015. Research methodology: Tools and techniques.

Poff, N.L. and Olden, J.D., 2017. Can dams be designed for sustainability?. Science, 358(6368), pp.1252-1253.

Snyder, H., 2019. Literature review as a research methodology: An overview and guidelines. Journal of Business Research, 104, pp.333-339.

Terêncio, D.P.S., Fernandes, L.S., Cortes, R.M.V., Moura, J.P. and Pacheco, F.A.L., 2018. Rainwater harvesting in catchments for agro-forestry uses: A study focused on the balance between sustainability values and storage capacity. Science of the Total Environment, 613, pp.1079-1092.

Zhang, L., Pang, M., Wang, C. and Ulgiati, S., 2016. Environmental sustainability of small hydropower schemes in Tibet: an emergy-based comparative analysis. Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, pp.97-104.


About GERD project, 2011, [Accessed through] <>[Accessed on 28th June 2021]

Controversy over GERD, 2020 [Accessed through] [Accessed on 28th June 2021]

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