Water for a Thirsty Land

The Story of the Orange River Project

Recognised as one of the world’s most significant engineering projects of the time, this scheme took over a decade to build and included two huge dams, the longest tunnel in the world, thousands of kilometres of irrigation canals, new towns created to serve the engineering works and how our skilled South African engineers overcame problems with ingenious solutions.

Compiled to mark the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Gariep Dam, by the History and Heritage Panel of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering.




Water for a Thirsty Land

1962: South Africa is reeling from the after-effects of the Sharpeville massacre and the exodus from the British Commonwealth. Unexpectedly the Government announces the Orange River Project, a plan on a scale unknown in the country to tame the Orange River and provide reliable water to transform the arid Karoo. The scheme includes two huge dams, the longest tunnel in the world, thousands of kilometres of irrigation canals, and complete new towns to serve the engineering works. The mood of the country improves. Overseas experts stream into the country to work side-by-side with South African engineers to design and construct the enormous scheme. Thousands of workers are employed on construction. Subsidiary industries flourish. And long-suffering farmers can at last look forward to stable water supplies.

This book has been commissioned by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering to commemorate 60 years since the announcement of the project and 50 years since the opening of the first element, the Gariep Dam. It describes in terms understandable by non-engineers how the idea developed from early water experts, how the dams and tunnels were designed and built, and how the countryside has been transformed to contribute to the present economy. But it is also the story of the people involved in a vast activity in a sparsely populated part of the country: engineers who overcame problems with ingenious solutions; farmers who were uprooted and changed their technology to suit new conditions; and sleepy villages which for a few brief years became thriving metropolises with international culture.

Title: Water for a Thirsty Land Price: R500 plus postage

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Book size: 240mm x 170mm

Pages: 260 Pages Full colour

ISBN: 978-1-7764058-2-4