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Hundreds Forced to Flee Homes as Merowe Dam Reservoir Waters Rise Without Warning
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Aug 13, 2006 - 8:21:00 PM

Press Release
August 10, 2006

Contacts

Hundreds Forced to Flee Homes as Merowe Dam Reservoir Waters Rise Without Warning

Civil society demands an end to impoundment and resolution of resettlement issues as fears of violence increase

LONDON: More than 100 families were suddenly forced to abandon their homes on August 7 because of rising flood waters after the authorities at the Merowe Dam in Sudan unexpectedly closed the damís gates and began filling its reservoir. No warning was given of the impending flooding. The families, all from the Amri people, have been left without food or shelter. Six other villages are threatened with imminent inundation.

Villagers from around the area are trying to provide food and shelter to those whose homes have been destroyed. The Committee representing the Amri has made an appeal to the Red Cross for emergency aid.

The Amri make up one quarter of communities that will be affected by the Merowe Dam, and have been extremely resistant to being moved to resettlement sites outside of their traditional lands.

The Merowe Dam (also known as Hamadab) is a US$1.8 billion hydropower dam under construction on the Nile River in Sudan. The project is being built by Chinese and European companies with financial backing by the China Ex-Im Bank and Arabian financial institutions. The dam project will displace approximately 50,000 people (mainly small farmers living along the Nile), have serious health impacts, and far-reaching environmental consequences. The 174-km-long reservoir will inundate an area rich in history and antiquities dating back 5,000 years.

The recent flooding affected families from the Island of Kouk and the village of Shakoura. That same day, the dam authorities told villagers that they had five days in which to move to an unfinished resettlement site in the Bayuoda desert.

Villagers from around the area are trying to provide food and shelter to those whose homes have been destroyed. The Committee representing the Amri has made an appeal to the Red Cross for emergency aid.

The Amri make up one quarter of communities that will be affected by the Merowe Dam and have been extremely resistant to being moved to resettlement sites outside of their traditional lands.

In November 2002, violence erupted in the Amri area after the dam authorities refused to recognise the elected committee representing the communities. Further unrest followed attempts by the dam authorities to conduct a socio-economic survey as a first step towards displacing the affected communities to a desert location.

In April 2006Ļ, Special Forces closely linked to the dam authorities attacked a peaceful gathering of affected people in Amri village, where resistance to dam-displacement has been especially strong. Three people were killed and 47 injured. Since then, the area has been under an undeclared condition of siege. Journalists and international observers who visited the area in June reported the heavy presence of militia units in and around the area.

The Amri are to be resettled at Wadi Al Mugadam in the Bayuoda desert. The authorities had intended to move them by the end of 2005. But the resettlement site is still not ready, nor is sufficient land available to meet the legal resettlement entitlements of affected communities. The resettlement site is about half the size it should be under Sudanese law.

Following the recent flooding, affected communities held an emergency meeting. The villagers are refusing to move to the resettlement site at Wadi Al Mugadam, and accuse the authorities of breaching its agreements with them. The Leadership of the Hamadab Affected People (LOHAP) has requested international support to impress upon the dam authorities and the Government of Sudan that:

  • The issue of land compensation must be addressed immediately and more arable land must be found to compensate the people;
  • Compensation for fruit bearing trees and fodder crops must be paid in cash and in full before people are moved from their land;
  • The April shootings must be investigated; the Attorney General must issue his report on the case; and those involved must be brought to justice;
  • The dam authorities must open the damís gate immediately and must not impound any more water to avoid inundating villages.

Background on Current Tensions

The April shootings led to negotiations between the Amri and a Ministerial Committee, headed by an advisor to the President of Sudan. They reached an agreement in early May under which the Sudanese Government to look into the communitiesí grievances, while the affected people resolved to allow the socio-economic survey to take place.

The survey, which is being used by the authorities to set compensation levels, was carried out in June and supervised by a team from the Attorney Generalís office. Its results have provoked further outrage among the communities. Despite Sudanese law requiring that the loss of land that has been farmed for ten years or more be compensated, the dam authorities have refused to compensate where land has been farmed for less than 20 years. No (or minimal) compensation will also be paid for the loss of many fruit-bearing trees or for fodder crops. Compensation for guava trees will be reduced from US$233 each to $4.5. On the basis of the survey, two-thirds of the affected people will be ineligible for any compensation.

 



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