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Cablegate: Dam Construction Threatens to Displace Tens of Thousands

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DE RUEHKH #1045/01 2541000
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FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
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TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ENRG SENV SMIG SU
SUBJECT: DAM CONSTRUCTION THREATENS TO DISPLACE TENS OF THOUSANDS

1. (SBU) Summary: Construction to raise the Roseries Dam in Blue
Nile State by ten meters threatens to displace between 21,000 and
73,000 people in Blue Nile State, according to Oxford University
researcher Harry Verhoeven. At a September 8 briefing to a small
group of UN donors and representatives, Verhoeven stated that
government officials have not adequately informed affected residents
about the project's impact or set aside funds for compensation.
According to Verhoeven, Blue Nile State Governor Malik Ajar opposes
the project, and will do all he can to ensure the best deal possible
for displaced persons. End Summary.

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ROSERIES DAM TO BE RAISED BY 10 METERS
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2. (U) In 2008, construction began to heighten by ten meters the
Roseries Dam in Blue Nile State. The cost of construction is
approximately USD 400 million. The higher dam would allow Sudan to
store additional water and to use the entire volume of Nile waters
allocated to Sudan under the 1959 Nile Agreement.

3. (U) The construction project goals include decreasing Sudan's
dependence on oil revenue, expanding irrigation to decrease rainfall
dependency, and generating electricity. The project is part of a
wider hydraulic effort encompassing construction or rehabilitation
of up to 10 dams countrywide, many of them along the Nile. The
Roseries Dam project is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

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HIGHER DAM WILL DISPLACE 21-73,000 PERSONS
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) New dam construction will flood a large area, displacing
between 21,000 and 73,000 people depending on the computer model
used, according to Verhoeven, who briefed U.S. and UN staff on
September 8. According to Verhoeven, affected populations have not
been adequately informed of the impact of the dam construction or
compensation for dislocation and lost assets. Verhoeven stated that
residents reported attending one community meeting and rapidly
registering assets the following day. Officials have not given
residents the opportunity to revise asset lists or submit
grievances.

5. (SBU) Villages affected by the Roseries Dam project house
minority populations, including Hausa, Fellata, and Funj. These
villages are remote, have high poverty levels, receive limited
government services, and are minimally engaged with Blue Nile State
authorities. According to Verhoeven, Governor Malik Ajar says that
if compensation for the dam project were paid completely, the cost
would be greater than the construction cost.

6. (SBU) In order to accommodate displacements, the Government of
National Unity has planned to construct seven towns on the west side
of the river and six on the east side. According to Verhoeven,
villagers in affected areas expressed concern to him regarding
potential grouping with other tribes. According to Verhoeven, some
affected people he interviewed stated that if they are not properly
involved in the process and compensated, they will switch their
loyalty from the National Congress Party (NCP) to the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM).

7. (SBU) The Dam Implementation Unit, which reports directly to the
President, is responsible for the implementation of dam projects
including Roseries. According to Verhoeven, the unit is composed
almost exclusively of engineers from within the NCP. Verhoeven
further noted that the dam construction project is ignoring
environmental considerations, although a UN official attending the
briefing challenged this view, mentioning that engineers have
engaged in discussions about environmental impacts with key
investors including the Chinese and Kuwaitis, and that some western
donors are also privy to the environmental plans.

8. (SBU) In Blue Nile State, Verhoeven said, in addition to plans to
move up to 73,000 people for the dam construction, the federal
government has plans to move up to 250,000 people to make way for
irrigated agricultural land. Malik Ajar, governor of the province,
told the researcher that he was completely opposed to the Roseries
project, but that he had to "pick his battles." The governor said
his strategy will be to try to ensure the best deal possible for the
displaced people.

9. (SBU) Comment: Construction of the Meroe dam in northern Sudan

KHARTOUM 00001045 002 OF 002


prompted violent civil protests over displacement and compensation.
The central government has reason to oversee this project with
vigilance given the potential for unrest and Blue Nile State's right
to popular consultations in connection with the 2011 Referendum on
independence for the South. According to a UN participant at the
briefing, the worst scenario for the NCP would be for Blue Nile
State to choose to separate with the South. Any potential outcome
that complicates the implementation of the Nile Water Agreement of
1959, to which Sudan is a signatory, or jeopardizes Sudan's access
to water, will be closely watched in Khartoum. End Comment.

WHITEHEAD

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