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Hamadab Dam Project: Critical Juncture for Peace, Democracy, and the Environment

A Critical Juncture for Peace, Democracy, and the Environment: Sudan and the Merowe/Hamadab Dam Project

Report from a Visit to Sudan and a Fact-Finding Mission to the Merowe Dam Project
22 February - 1 March 2005
Published by Peter Bosshard (International Rivers Network) and Nicholas Hildyard (The Corner House) in May 2005

Executive Summary

On 11/12 April 2005, international donors pledged $4.5 billion over three years to support the peace and reconstruction process in Sudan. The peace agreement between the Sudanese govern¬ment and the Southern rebel movement, together with the generous international support, offers the prospect of ending a brutal civil war that has ravaged the South of Sudan for more than 40 years.

As foreign aid and private investment begin to flow into Sudan again, it is important that social, environmental, and human rights standards are upheld, and that civil society can play an active role in defining development priorities, establishing safeguard standards, assessing project op¬tions, and monitoring projects.

The authors of this report had the chance to visit Sudan for an intensive program of meetings in February 2005. They met with representatives of the Sudanese government, civil society, acade¬mia, and foreign embassies. They also had the chance to conduct a fact-finding mission to the first resettlement site of the Merowe/Hamadab Dam Project.

This report summarizes the main findings of the NGO visit. It contains some general reflections on the development process in Sudan’s electricity sector, and summarizes the environmental, so¬cial and archaeological impacts of the Merowe/Hamadab Dam Project. Although resettlement for the dam project has only just started, the poverty rate in the affected communities is already soaring, affected people feel betrayed by broken promises and a lack of consultation, and ten¬sions are increasing. Furthermore, the environmental impacts of the project have never been properly assessed, and the project has never been certified by the competent Sudanese authori¬ties. On this last score, the project violates Sudanese law.

In the past, large, centralized projects had massive social and environmental problems, did not benefit the wider population, and have contributed to Sudan’s civil war. The Merowe Dam Pro¬ject is a test case of how the government and developers have learned from past experiences. The report concludes with a series of recommendations on how to address the serious problems of the Merowe Dam Project, and how to ensure a balanced, participatory and sustainable development strategy for Sudan’s electricity sector.