Water Dam to wash away Eastern Sudan’s abject poverty

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

Khartoum, Sudan (Sudanow)-Experts strongly believe that the construction of the Upper Atbara River Dam in Eastern Sudan is likely to change the features of the rough life of the citizens in the region. After 70 years of waiting, Sudan has finally nodded to the idea of the dam has recently managed to provide the necessary funding for the establishment of the dam, which is set to be completed in five years.

The total cost of the project is set at 1.9 billion U.S Dollars with the aim to drag this area- which comes third in the list of least developed areas in country according to human development indicators- from underdevelopment to prosperity.


The idea of Upper Atbara River Dam dates back to 1946 where it was planned to be established at Rumil area at Upper Atbara River some 600 km southeast of the Sudanese capital Khartoum. In 1963 Khashm el-Girba Dam was established in the area, matter which encouraged the agricultural activities there, but still the area remained an impoverished zone, with sticky social traditions that kept women at bay from taking part in development activities.


During the 1970’s of the past century, the French Sougaria Company, the same company which supervised the construction of Khashm Al-Girba Dam, set the location of the Dam at Rumil area on Upper Atbara River and al-Barwan area on Setait River in Geddarif and Kassala States.


Eastern Sudan comprises three States (the Red Sea, Kassala and Gedarif), and covers an area of 336,489 km with a population of 4, 5 million people, that is %21 of Sudan population. All during the past years, the region suffered from many circumstances that crippled its development including economic deterioration, drought and desertification cycles, food gaps and diseases.

Eastern Sudan stands an important strategic location and shares borders with four countries including Egypt in the north, Eritrea and Ethiopia on the east and Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea coast.


Eastern Sudan is the only sea gate for Sudan and its exports to the external world.  This is an area that harbors Sudan’s only three maritime outlets: Port-Sudan harbor and Bashayer and the southern harbors which have been allotted for exportation of the country’s oil that amounts to around 500,000 barrels a day in addition to Osman Digna harbor.


Project cost:


Cost of the Upper Atbara Dam project contract amounts to 848 million U.S Dollars in addition to the project implementation cost which includes hydroelectric and electric costs, technical and consultancy service costs, land owning and population resettlement costs and project implementation management and supervision costs by the Sudan Dams Implementation Unit (DIU), thus the total cost reaches 1. Billion Dollars. The project implementation duration is set for 65 months to begin on May 15 2010.

The project will be implemented by two Chinese Companies, the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) and China Water and Electric Corporation (CWE), the biggest Chinese dam construction firms, while the project’s consultant is the French Sougaria company, which designed and supervised implementation of Khashm el-Girba dam. The project’s designs were revised by La Meer International Company, the same company which revised and supervised the designs of Merowe Dam.


Eastern Sudan lacks minimum development indicators compared to other Sudan states where maternity mortality rate for 100,000 in Kassala state is 1,400 and 609 in Geddarif State, while mortality rate of children less than five years for each 1000 children registered %32 in the Red Sea State, %38 in Kassala and %34 in Geddarif.

Additionally, the people who receive clean drinking water registered %33 in the Red Sea State, %42 in Kassala and %37 in Geddarif out of the total population of the three states. The civil war which took place in the region between 1995 and 2005 further aggravated the conditions and increased the rates of displacement, immigration and spread of poverty and anti-personnel land mines.


The total land-mines area in the region extends for 330 Squire kms with 31 affected rural communities.


These factors have crippled any positive development in the life of the people of eastern Sudan and caused them to suffer for long years until the conditions were changed with the signing of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement between Sudan government and the Eastern Sudan Front in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, October 10, 2006.


Advantages of the Peace Agreement:


Mussa Mohamed Ahmed, Leader of the Eastern Sudan Front, Assistant to the Sudanese President, said One of the positive outcomes for 2006 Eastern Sudan peace agreement was that it put an end to the conflict and rebellion in the region, a conflict that lasted  for a whole decade, is that it provided appropriate conditions for achieving sustainable economic and social development in the region on bases of practical plans not to mention that it has opened the door for attracting and using external investment, development capitals and assistance for the region.

Executive Director of Eastern Sudan’s Rehabilitation Fund Abu Obaida Mohamed, on his part, said that the three states of eastern Sudan have become prepared for investment and development and that all the signatory parties to the agreements have become one front to achieve a great development in the region.


He added that the projects prepared by the three states in cooperation with the fund could make a lasting change in the life of the population of the area, adding that these projects included al-Setait Dam project.


Kasala State Governor, Mohamed Yusuf Adam, meanwhile, said that Al-Sitait Dam project, which is also known as Al-Sitait Dam, constituted one of the most important agricultural projects which would likely result in a great economic and social development in eastern Sudan.

He said that the project would increase the agricultural area, generate electricity, provide irrigation and drinking water and reduce the floods which cause great damages in the area in addition to the project’s role in boosting the infrastructures of the area, achieving a qualitative shift in the life and stability of the population and help them to make use of their products.


He further described the project as one of the most important infrastructure projects that would assist the state to cultivate 600000 feddans on the most fertile agricultural soils in the country.


Project description:

According to the DIU, the project lies between Geddarif and Kassala States in eastern Sudan. The Upper Atbara and Setait Dam complex includes establishment of two connected dams on upper Atbara and Setait rivers with two electricity generating stations. The storage capacity of the lake behind the dam is estimated at around 2.7 billion cubic meters.


The project is composed of the major following components:

  • Construction of upper Atbara river Dam: it include establishment of a land dam and a concrete spillway with a draining canal to carry water to the bottom together with an electricity power station with a capacity of 120 megawatts in addition to establishment of an open land canal to link Atbara and Setait rivers. The project also includes preparatory works with a road to reach the dam location and a bridge over the river in addition to hydro- mechanical works including gates, pipes, cranes and water control equipment.

  •  Construction of Sitait Dam: it includes building of a land dam with its utilities, a canal with a capacity of 180 cubic meters per second with a small electricity power station of a total capacity of around 15 megawatts. The project also includes a concrete spillway with a canal to carry the water to the bottom of the dam. The project also includes preparatory works with a road to reach the dam location and a bridge over the river in addition to hydro- mechanical works including gates, pipes, cranes and water control equipment.


Comprehensive development:

The project tends to irrigate around 500,000 new feddans and generate electric power of 135 megawatts. The project also tends to help reduce the silts on Khashm al-Girba dam which provides New Halfa agricultural scheme with water as the dam has now lost around %60 of its storing capacity due to the silts. This way the scheme preserves provision of irrigation water for the Halfa scheme.


Additionally, the project would also contribute to developing eastern Sudan through increasing the agricultural production, generating electric power, providing drinking water and developing and exploiting the available water in Atbara and Setait rivers to intensify cultivation in the currently prepared agricultural areas at the irrigated Halfa scheme and then develop the agricultural areas to be prepared in the future at upper Atbara area in Kassala State. The project further tends to protect the area against floods through controlling the flow of the water from the area’s rivers.


The Agricultural area:


Eastern Sudan enjoys formidable natural resources represented in wide agricultural areas, river deltas and seasonal valleys that total around 6,750 million feddans in addition to rain and underground waters. The region also enjoys great animal resources estimated at around 8.8 million head of cattle not to mention the forests, natural pastures and the mineral resources such as gold, iron, natural gas and others. There is also the Red Sea which enjoys great fish resources together with its tourist potentialities, multi-climates and multi ethnic population and cultural diversity.

Since the 1970’s of the past century, the successive Sudanese governments have kept on searching for a fund for this dam which is described as important and strategic project for eastern Sudan and the economic future of the whole Sudan. Finally the fund has been provided through the international donor and investor conference rehabilitating eastern Sudan, which was organized in cooperation with the Kuwaiti Government in December 2010 where the Kuwaiti government agreed to contribute to funding the project with 500 million U.S Dollars and said that it would later sign an agreement on this contribution in Khartoum.


The Kuwaiti Fund:


A loan agreement was recently signed in Khartoum between the Republic of Sudan and the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development according to which the fund provides a loan worth of 25 million Kuwaiti Dinars, around (85 million U.S Dollars) to contribute to funding the Upper Atbara and Setait dam complex project.


The loan agreement was signed by Sudanese Minister of Finance and National Economy Ali Mahmud Hassanain on behalf of Sudan government and Dr. Mohamed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah, deputy Director of the Kuwaiti Council of Ministers and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister on behalf of the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development.

Meanwhile, 25 villages, hosting around 109900 families, would partially or in part be affected by the establishment of the dam, where 46 km on Atbara River and 10 km on Setait River are expected to be affected by the dam. This area is the one which constitutes the lake which would submerge the villages on its banks.


The DIU embarked on implementing the first arrangements for the beginning of work at the dam through listing and counting the people, the lands and farms at the areas and villages that would be affected by the lake and in direct supervision of the ministries of justice, physical planning and agriculture besides the judiciary and the statistics organ. This step would be followed by selecting the areas for resettlement of the citizens and establishment of houses and agricultural and service projects for the affected population.


Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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