Merowe Dam, 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, the dam created a reservoir with a length of 174 kilometers. With a capacity of 1,250 megawatts, the project doubled Sudan’s electricity generation. It also displaced more than 50,000 people from the fertile Nile Valley to arid desert locations. Thousands of people who refused to leave their homes were flushed out by the rising waters of the reservoir.

No proper environmental impact assessment for the Merowe Dam was ever carried out. Project construction was started without approval by Sudan’s environmental ministry, which violates the country’s laws. The project also submerged immeasurable archeological treasures in its reservoir.

The people affected by the Merowe Dam strenuously resisted their displacement from the Nile valley, and proposed to be resettled along the banks of the new reservoir. The government completely ignored their views, and brutally oppressed any protests. Several people were killed and many more were injured in crack-downs by the security forces. The UN Rapporteur on Housing Rights expressed “deep concern” about the human rights violations in the project, and asked the dam builders to halt construction in 2007.

The $2.4 billion Merowe Dam was funded by China Export Import Bank and Arab financiers, and built by Chinese, German and French companies. Civil society organizations are trying to hold these actors to account for their complicity in human rights abuses in the project. International Rivers has supported the communities affected by the Merowe Dam for many years, and continues to monitor the situation in the project.