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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

72                      THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                CHAP.
for their British successors. In the face of derisive scepticism, the Barrage was patched up experimentally and then completed in 1890, with immediate results of almost incalculable value, besides the earnest of success for still greater schemes of the same* character in the future. It was in some respects a greater feat than any other, for, to borrow Scott-Moncrieff's very apt comparison, it was like " mending a watch without stopping the works." The whole stream could never be shut off at one and the same time, and the work had to be carried on during the very short working seasons alternately on one and then on the other part of the barrage. Many other, only less important, works followed in due course, such as the Assiut and Zifta barrages, which, like the Cairo barrage, do not actually store water, but raise the water levels sufficiently to feed the great canals dependent upon them. The time had then come for the crowning enterprise of the great Assuan dam, which actually stores up an immense head of water in a huge reservoir stretching many miles up-stream. Completed in 1902, it has not only provided for the old cultivable area of the Nile valley for a thousand miles downwards to the Mediterranean an almost certain insurance against the hazards of abnormally high or low Niles, but has also enabled the area to be very largely extended. Nor did the creation of the Assuan reservoir bring the story of Egyptian irrigation to a close, though it may be regarded as closing its first and perhaps most pregnant chapter. The cost of the chief works ran into many millions. But never were millions more usefully expended, and the inception of it all can be traced back to the prescience which induced Lord Cromer to apply to the development of irrigation the small free balance of £1,000,000 left to the Egyptian Government out of the £9,000,000 loan sanctioned by the London Convention of 1885. A million sounds a very small sum nowadays, but at the time it was Egypt's one little nest-egg.full purpose for which it had been designed, still stood as a sign-postland to pursue for a long time to