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Sudan’s Merowe dam to double electricity

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January 17, 2008 (MEROWE) — Sudan’s massive $2 billion Merowe dam project, which hopes to eventually double the African nation’s electricity output, will begin working in November this year, officials said on Thursday.

Mohamed Hassan Ahmed al-Hadari, deputy head of the Dams Implementation Unit, told Reuters two units would begin to produce 250 mega watts in November, moving to full capacity of 1,250 mega watts within a year.

"Work is about 85 percent completed in all areas and we expect that it will first start producing electricity in November this year and will be completed by November 2009," he said.

The project began in 2003, financed about 40 percent by the government of Sudan and the rest given by Arab funds and long-term loans from the Chinese government, whose company is building the dam, he added.

Hadari said the loan repayments would not begin immediately with a grace period of about eight years and a low interest rate of between 3-4 percent.

Despite benefits such as a $40 million new international airport, a new road connecting Karima and Dongola — two of the biggest regional towns — and a new $12 million Chinese-made bridge crossing the Nile opened by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Thursday, the project has caused controversy.

Those being displaced by the project complain they are not getting enough compensation and archaeologists are racing to remove ancient antiquities dating from Pharaonic times from the areas to be flooded.

Hadari said the area was now empty of antiquities although some archaeologists were sill working in the area.

Other dam officials said compensation for around 10,000 residents to be displaced had been granted with each receiving a new house with two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen and compensation of 500 Sudanese pounds per palm tree they owned.

Only a few communities were left to be assessed, the officials said.

Police have killed protesters in Merowe in the past and arrested journalists going to the region to report.

Access to the entire area is tightly monitored by the dams authority which reports directly to the presidency.

(Reuters)

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