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Merowe Dam, Sudan

A huge plant on the Nile river for massive energy generation and a criminal complaint against Lahmeyer International for corruption. Read the story of the largest dam in North Sudan


The Merowe Dam in Northern Sudan is one of the world’s most destructive hydropower projects. Built on the Nile’s fourth cataract between 2003 and 2009, and inaugurated in March 2009, the dam created a reservoir of a length of 174 kilometers. With a capacity of 1,250 megawatts, the project doubled Sudan’s electricity generation. It displaced more than 50,000 people from the fertile Nile Valley to arid desert locations, because of the consequent reduction of water flowing downstream. Thousands of people who refused to leave their homes were flushed out by the rising waters of the reservoir. Next in line are the Kajbar and Dal dams, who add to energy generation potential but also displaced some thousands more people.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Merowe Dam, Sudan
State or province:Ash Shamaliyah
Location of conflict:Merowe
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The capacity of the reservoir is 12.5 cubic kilometers, around 20 percent of the annual flow of the Nile. It produces 1.25 million kilowatts. The aerial transmission line is 1,776 km (1104 miles) long.

Project area:69600
Level of Investment for the conflictive project2,400,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:70,000
Start of the conflict:2002
Company names or state enterprises:Lahmeyer International from Germany
Alstom from France
ABB Power from China
China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE) (CWE) from China
HPE from China
Jilin Province Transmission Substation Project Company from China
Relevant government actors:Sudan Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, DIU, NEC
International and Finance InstitutionsChina Export Import Bank (China Exim) from China
Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) from Kuwait
Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) from Saudi Arabia
United Nations Missions in Sudan (UNMIS) from Sudan
Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) from Kuwait
Fund for Development of Youth Projects or Sharakah from Oman
Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) from United Arab Emirates
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Rivers - USA, SPLM - Sudan, LOHAP - Sudan, Amri Martyrs Front - Sudan, MAEC - Sudan
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Amri and Manasir communities
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Global warming, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Proposal and development of alternatives:An adequate compensation for all the affected population and the restoration of the area.
According to International Rivers, "African countries have a huge potential of renewable energy such as wind and solar, which in many cases is not more expensive than large dams,"
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The dam is still operating and native population have not retrieved their lands. Two thirds of affected people have not receive compensation.
However, the criminal complaint against Lahmeyer International in Germany is a pioneering example of how transnational corporations can be held to account for human rights abuses on their projects.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The 2000 Sudan Environmental Protection Act

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Conservation, Ecology, and Management of African Fresh Waters. Crisman, Thomas L.; Chapman, Lauren J.; Chapman, Colin A.; Kaufman, Les S.. Ed.University Press of Florida. 2003.

Neutral? Against What? Bystanders and Human Rights Abuses: The case of Merowe Dam, Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House
[click to view]

[1] International Rivers - German Company Brought to Justice Over Abuses in Sudan Dam?
[click to view]

[2] Protest in Sudan capital by Merowe Dam-affected
[click to view]

IPS, SUDAN: No Clear Studies on Impacts of Merowe Dam, by Reem Abbas
[click to view]

Wikipedia page on Merowe Dam
[click to view]

Official Government's page on the Merowe Dam project
[click to view]

Merowe Dam, Sudan, International Rivers
[click to view]

Sudan: Environmental groups warn over new dam, IRIN
[click to view]

Merowe: the largest water resources project under construction in Africa, Hydropower & dams, 2006
[click to view]

Hundreds Forced to Flee Homes as Merowe Dam Reservoir Waters Rise Without Warning, N. Hildyard
[click to view]

International Rivers - New Chinese Dam Project Fuels Ethnic Conflict in Sudan
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Sudan & China - Bridges of communication through Merawe dam
[click to view]

Merowe Dam Floodings
[click to view]

Dam project threatens Sudanese nubian tribe
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl (A SUD) and Daniela Del Bene (ICTA- UAB)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:485
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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