March 21, 2017
Two dams constructed in eastern Sudan have changed the lives of many village communities, enabling villagers to live lives they had never dreamed of.
The citizens of Gedaref state in eastern Sudan celebrated the inauguration of Atbara and sitait dams early this year which are to produce electricity and most importantly provide them with clean and safe drinking water.
Residents of Upper Atbara and Sitait rivers, eastern Sudan, that have long been suffering abject poverty welcomed their relocation to other areas where they will hopefully grow their food and earn money for better standards of living: “Our old village Kiraidah may vanish for good, God willing,” said Duriyah al-Zaki who was relocated along with her family and all other inhabitants of Kiraidah village on the western bank of Atbara River.
Duriyah, a housewife with five children, was voicing her happiness with her new Al-Fatih – one of the villages built as part of Atbara and Sitait project for relocating thousands of people whose villages would be submerged by the water as a result of the new dams.
Filled with laughter, she said that in the new village, they have a spacious modern house and, moreover, continuous clean water supply and electricity systems which were not easy to obtain in our old village.
The project is located at Upper Atbara and Sitait rivers, about 20 km away from the confluence of the two rivers, 80 km south of Khashm al-Girbah Dam and 30 km away from Shuwak town, covering parts of Kassala and Gedaref states of east Sudan.
It consists of two dams with their accessories and two hydroelectric power generation stations on the two rivers.
Upper Atbara Dam is 58 meters high while Sitait Dam is 55 meters high. They connect at a joint channel to flow in a joint lake.
Medium and low soil embankments were built on the left and right of Upper Atbara Dam and similar embankments flanking Sitait Dam with concrete canals on the left banks of Upper Atbara and Sitait rivers.
The capacity of the power generation station on Upper Atbara Dam is 320 megawatts. There are four future irrigation canals on the left side of Upper Atbara Dam and another canal to supply Gedaref region with drinking water, in addition to a 220 kilovolt electric current line of a length of 28 km linking the power generation station with the national grid.
The common lake is 297 square kilometers with a capacity of 3.7 billion cubic meters at the average level of 521 meters, while the live storage 2.5 billion cubic meters at the average level of 521 meters while the static storage is about 1 billion cubic meters.
Mustafa Osman al-Zubair, the resident engineer of the project says that the construction of the two dams cost 1150 million dollars to generate 350 megawatts of electricity while the lake can irrigate 800,00 feddans (acres), providing excellent infrastructures for both local and foreign investors.
Work on the project, which started in September 2010, will be completed in the coming few months, the resident engineer said.
It is basically aimed at providing the water required for irrigation of Halfa Al-Gadidah Scheme as the capacity of the lake of Khashm al-Girbah decreased from 1.3 billion cubic meters to 0.6 billion cubic meters due to the precipitated silt.
The project provides water for drinking and irrigation all along the region from the lake up to the confluence with the River Nile at Atbara city. It also provides water for irrigation of the proposed Atbara agricultural scheme.
The project also helps to cut down the rate of the silt precipitation at Khashm al-Girbah Lake, besides power generation of 320 megawatts/hour; raising the fish productivity up to 1700 tons per year; improving the economic and social standards of the beneficiaries and creating more jobs for the inhabitants of the region.
Mohamed Ahmed al-Sheikh, the Director of the resettlement Office of the project notes that the construction of the dams and villages cost 1.9 trillion Sudanese pounds. He says the project has made a complete change in the life of the villagers, their living methods and the services they are offered.
The construction of dams in Sudan is usually met with objection and refusal by the local people that are made to leave their original home villages and towns to pave way for construction of such dams.
However, the case in Upper Atbra and Sitait dams was something different because the project transferred them from the extreme poverty they suffered for decades to a better way of life they did not dream of.
According to Mohamed Ahmed al-Sheikh, a population count in 2010 before the start of the project showed that there were 93 villages scattered over wide areas on the eastern and western banks of the two rivers. There were 28,015 families of an average seven members each; lacking water; electricity; primary health care and roads services. They would often be isolated from each other and from other parts of the country during the rainy season.
And now, there are 30 well-furnished schools compared to 16 schools made of grass in the previous villages. While the old villages did not have a single secondary school, there are 24 secondary schools in the area now.
In addition, there are now 25 mosques of a capacity of a thousand worshipers each, compared with six mosques of 150 worshipers each in the previous villages.
Mohamed Ahmed al-Sheikh reveals that the new villages contained 14 social services centers, 11 police stations, three courts and prosecution offices and 33 housing complexes for teachers and doctors.
Abdul Nasir Saif al-Dinn Braimah, the executive director of Wad al-Hilaw locality in Kassala which was covered by the relocation and the new villages, they had never dreamt of this total change: “We did not imagined that we would have modern villages of water and electricity services, two bridges linking the villages on both banks of Upper Atbara and Sitait rivers and linking those villages with the national highway on which we can travel to any part of the country.