The Enguri Arch Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Enguri River which separates Georgia from Abkhazia: the latter has been recognised as an independent state by several countries including Russia, whilst the UN consider it a sovereign territory of Georgia. The energy produced is split 50:50 between Georgia and Abkhazia, and it’s said to be the only issue they agree on.
In 2021, the Dam was turned into a tourist attraction, with three types of tour available. The walking tour, which we did, begins with a 10-minute film, followed by access to the viewing platform, whilst the other two allow access to the working areas.
Sat on bean bags in the ‘cinema hall’, we learned a lot about the building of the dam which took 17 years from 1961 to 1978 and is world’s second highest concrete arch dam with a height of 271.5m although originally it was going to be 300m. Archive film footage showed the cement being taken up to the top in a type of cable car and there were explanations of how the water is taken off in one pipe and then cascaded into five turbines built into the cliff. The electricity produced powers two of every three lightbulbs turned on in Georgia.
We then walked on for views of the dam which was pretty impressive with the cars below looking like specks. Our guide told us one man managed the project for its duration, but the KGB kept interfering to ensure he was on time and not taking bribes, as he was Georgian. Having successfully delivered the project, he then rather bizarrely became Minister of Agriculture.
Information boards explained the workings of the dam in detail and also listed the 10 highest dams in the world with the Enguri Dam in eighth place – with all but two of the highest being in China.