Nubian civilization under threat by Sudan’s new dams

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Khartoum’s plans to construct five dams in northern Sudan has sparked protests around the country

By Mohammed Amin

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Khartoum’s plans to construct five new dams in northern Sudan has sparked wide condemnation and protests around the country.

The country’s Nubian population is considering its opposition to the dam proposals a “fight for survival,” despite repeated promises by the government to compensate them for any potential loss of land.

One of the proposed five dams is presently under construction in Emre, while the remaining four are facing stiff opposition.

Egypt’s construction of its High Dam in the 1960s displaced tens of thousands of Nubians in both countries. They were resettled far away from the Nile, their ancestral home.

For many Nubians like 60-year-old Khalil Serri, half a century has done little to ease the pain.

“I feel that there is a conspiracy against Nubians,” Serri said. “The government wants to Arabize the whole country. We are Muslims, but we are not Arabs and we are proud of that.”

The Merowe Dam, completed in 2009, doubled Sudan’s electricity generating capacity, but it also displaced more than 50,000 people from the Nile Valley.

Khartoum has responded harshly to protests against the dams. In 2007, security forces killed four demonstrators and injured at least 20 in a peaceful protest against the construction of the Kajbar Dam.

According to the Sudanese Ministry of Electricity, more than 60 percent of the country’s power – about 1,250 megawatts – is generated through the Merowe Dam.

Tabita Boutros, Sudan’s Minister of Electricity and Water Resources, said the goal of the projects is to generate electricity.

She told Anadolu Agency that Khartoum has conducted comprehensive studies that chart both the positive and negative effects of the proposed construction on residents in affected areas.

These measures include a plan to relocate the affected population, as well as appropriate compensation for any damages or loss of land.

“The numbers of large-scale agricultural projects will be established and services will be offered to those resettled,” the minister said. “We specifically focused on the compensation of the affected people and we have started the compensation program.”

Mohamed Salah Abdul Rahman, a member of the anti-dam committee, objected to the minister’s statement, saying that Khartoum has not addressed concerns about the social, environmental and archaeological impact of these projects.

“The dam implementation unit failed to provide us with a feasibility study that tells us how high the dam will be, so we cannot clearly say how many villages will be submerged,” Abdul Rahman told Anadolu Agency.

Sudanese anthropologist Idris Gamal believes the construction of the dams will create a humanitarian catastrophe, in addition to erasing one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

Gamal warned that the Dal and Kajbar dams will flood an estimated 505 archaeological sites on more than 40 miles of Nubian land.

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