Home | News    Friday 3 October 2008

Merowe dam floods thousands in area closed to outsiders


October 2, 2008 (LONDON) – Dar al-Manasir flooded on Tuesday due to closing the gates of the massive Merowe dam, said representatives of the Manasir people, many of whom live upstream from the dam in an area that has been cordoned to outsiders and journalists since July 2008.

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Merowe dam

In February and March, the government refused to grant UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan Sima Samar permission to enter Kajbar, Amri, Merowe or Makabrab, towns in the area.

Rising water levels on Tuesday endangered one thousand families on Sherri Island, the second largest island on the river Nile, threatening those who have refused to leave the area without first agreeing on resettlement terms.

The new floods raise the number of displaced people to more than 30,000, according to the estimate of the Leadership Office of the Hamadab Affected People (LOHAP), a diaspora group based in London.

But an official of the government Dams Implementation Unit told Reuters that they had not shut the gates. He said that any flooding was caused by seasonal rains.

Data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows significant recent rainfall in areas of Sudan far upstream from the dam, but it is not clear that this would have flooded the villages unless the gates had been closed.

Villagers say the dam authority is deliberately targeting the island because it has been the cradle of the movement against the authorities’ plan to move those affected by the Merowe dam to distant and poorly prepared desert resettlement camps.

In 2006, an office belonging to the dam authority was destroyed when the officials threatened to submerge local residents “like rats” and kick them out to the desert. Since then, the island has witnessed rising opposition to the resettlement projects.

Reports from the island say that villagers are working day and night to protect public buildings, including two primary schools, two secondary schools, the hospital and the local council buildings. Tens of thousands of jute sacks have been filled with sand to use as flood defenses around these buildings.

Mohmed Hussain, a local leader says: “This expression of solidarity is just beyond anybody’s belief. We never thought that so many people could gather on our island ... and I want to send a clear message to the dam authority: no force on this earth will force us out of our land... we will not be moved.”

Earlier this year, in July, local people reacted to previous attempts to flood them out of their homes by moving to pre-prepared encampments, built in anticipation of the dam authorities exploiting the annual flood to force people to move.

However, this latest incident has flooded a far wider area than villagers anticipated. Members of the Manasir Executive Committee in Khartoum have accused the Federal and Nile state governments of deliberately preventing relief aid, medicine and tents from being shipped to the area.

In July, the Manasir Committee issued statement addressed to international Community asking for relief aid requesting more pressure on the government to open the area for media and access of relief agencies.

According to the Manasir Committee, the number of displaced could reach ten thousands families (50,000 people) by mid-October.

The 9.2 km long Merowe Dam, also known as Hamdab Dam, will produce 1250 MW of electricity when completed.


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