Friday, 12 August 2016

Hydropolitics Flooding in Sudan, farmers fight against land dispossession

Khartoum's new skyline in the background along the Nile River. Despite 20+ years of war occurring in Sudan, the Sudanese capital Khartoum was and is still spared the ongoing bombing in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile states. Because of this, Khartoum has been to expand and build grandeur infrastructure in hope of becoming the new Dubai of Africa. All this in the shadows of the ongoing government war against civilians outside the capital in peripheries. Khartoum has not been spared from ongoing student and wider national protests on police brutality and crackdown.


Drowning the Lands of the Ancestors of Ancient Nubia, Dal and Kajbar Dams


It has been an extremely hot and drought filled summer. Sudan, North eastern Africa is witnessing hot summers and little rain. Rain is seen as much as a blessing in Sudan, Egypt and other arid countries in Africa and Asia. Especially when rain aids in agricultural production and irrigation that can't be supplied solely by rivers and streams. In the past weeks, Sudan has experienced heavy flooding across the country in Kassala state and West Kordofan, Darfur that has affected over 42, 000 people. Many ordinary Sudanese have had to protect themselves and properties by reaching higher ground. Because of the crumbling road networks outside of the capital, flooding in rural Sudan cuts off towns and villages from one another, destroys houses sometimes small villages and makes passing rural roads impossible. The floods have been ongoing for a month. Meanwhile, South Sudanese refugees are constantly fleeing from war torn South Sudan into Darfur, Kordofan and as far North as Khartoum to escape the trauma, bombings, military crossfires and forced migration. It's not just properties that are destroyed, but fears of lasting destruction to agricultural lands in Abyei and South Kordofan has shocked many Sudanese and the government as well. The flooding also halted train service from Khasrtoum to Nyala, Darfur state ten days ago. The waters have since resided but the flooding has affected other towns in recent days. South Sudan's capital Juba, also experienced flooding on July 10th.



Farming is life, land means identity and controlling the Nile 

 

The Nile has done a lot for Sudanese to be able to farm and live along its banks and also further inland. As been mentioned many times, the River Nile gave birth to the world's first societies and Civilizations in Nubia, Ethiopia and Egypt (Ancient Kemet). Africans then as now have never taken the Nile for granted. Egypt considers the Nile to be its sole property and it usually gets the final say in water management discussions and meetings on Nile's resources. Ethiopia which is home to one of the sources of the Nile, has long been in a diplomatic spat with Egypt over Nile's importance to Ethiopians too. Often times, Egyptians forget that 10 other African countries also rely on the Nile for agriculture, food production and water resources as well as trade. For nearly 40 years, Sudan's critical infrastructure such as road networks, civic works, hospitals, schools and housing outside of Khartoum has been collapsing from neglect and the government diverting its revenue towards defensive and security state. Much of Sudan's GDP is spent on defense, militarization of the police and army to support the now decades long civil war between South Sudan (1970-2006), Darfur (1970-1980s  than from 2003-present), Blue Nile including South Kordofan and Abyei (2011-) and occasional student and rebel uprising in East Sudan around the city of Port Sudan. The city is the number one part for the country at the moment. Sudan in recent years has made attempts to increase it's own local agricultural productions and provide improved water infrastructure to its growing population. The most unpopular and damaging way is through the series of dams built along the Nile namely, the Meroe, Setit and Atbara Dams. Many Nubian Sudanese families have been disposes of their ancestral lands and displaced home towns. Some families are being displaced for the second time after originally being displaced when the 1964 Aswan High Dam was built and created Lake Nasser. For years, Nubians have protested against the Egyptian and Sudanese governments continual dam construction that has caused irreplaceable damage to Ancient Nubia and Kush's important archaeology, historical monuments and cultural heritage. .

Nubian protest against Dam construction at KSA (Saudi) Embassy in Washington, DC



One of the largest agricultural schemes that the Sudanese government has approved via a bill is a 99 year lease of 1 million feddans (roughly a 1 million acres) which would allow Saudi investors to cultivate farm land behind the Setit and Atbara Dams. The scheme despite sounding like a fantastic idea has crushed local, smaller Sudanese farming families and independent farmers who rely on the land for their livelihoods. The farmers have widely protested the government's approval to allow Saudi investors to take over the land. Farmers continue to protest both the new scheme and dam constructions especially in Nubian lands in Northern Sudan. Before the recent Setit and Atbara farmland scheme was approved, the largest agricultural project in the world was El Gezira farming scheme between the White and Blue Nile south of Khartoum. The Sudanese government has since scraped El Gezira scheme as infeasible. Saudi Arabia is one of the Sudan's biggest allies and long standing investment partner. The other country being China who receives 70% of Sudan's oil exports.



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