Construction has started of two key pumping stations at the Bassel al Assad dam on the Khabour river in northeast Syria. The stations, each of 4.5m3/sec capacity, will feed water from two main irrigation canals, one on each side of the Khabour valley, to two high level canals. Assisting with the supervision of the work is a venture of the UK’s Gibb and the Kuwait Consulting and Investment Company.

Located 25km south of the town of Hasakeh, the dam was originally known simply as the Khabour dam but was renamed the Martyr Bassel Hafez al Assad dam after the death of the Syrian President’s eldest son in 1994.

The structure is 20m high and has a crest length of 5km. It will store 605M m3 of water in a 92.5km2 reservoir.

The dam has a central core of clay with gravel shoulders. Beneath the core a 30m deep cement/bentonite wall has been built to reduce seepage.

On the right abutment, the dam has been extended for a further 3km in the form of a clay filled cut-off trench intercepting gypsiferous foundation rocks. Impoundment started in the winter of 1996-7, when about 50M m3 of water was stored. In both seasons to date, however, rainfall has been well below average and the reservoir level has reached only 2m below the planned maximum. The original plans called for two small hydroelectric units but these have since been dropped.