Atbara & Sitait Dams: Complete Change in Life of Villagers

SHUWAK (Sudanow.info.sd) – The inhabitants of area of Upper Atbara and Sitait rivers, east Sudan, who have long been suffering abject poverty are welcoming their relocation to other areas where they will hopefully grow their food and earn money for having 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 a number of villages built as part of Atbara  and Sitait project for relocating thousands of people whose villages would be submerged by the water behind the new dams.

She said, laughing, that in the new village they have a spacious modern house and, moreover, continuous clean water supply and electricity systems “ which we used to suffer a lot to obtain as they were non-existent in our old village which we were not at all sorry to leave”.

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 of a total length of 13 km, 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 conctere canals on the left banks of Upper Atbara and Sitait rivers.

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The resident engineer

The resident engineer

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.

The resident engineer of the project, Mustafa Osman al-Zubair, said the construction of the two dams cost 1,150 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 cuts down the rate of the silt precipitation at Khashm al-Girbah Lake, besides power generation 320 megawatts/hour, raising the fish productivity up to 1,700 tons per year, improving the economic and social standards of the beneficiaries and creating more jobs for the inhabitants of the region.

The Director of the resettlement Office of the project, Mohamed Ahmed al-Sheikh, said the construction of the dams and villages cost 1.9 trillion Sudanese pounds, adding that the project has made a complete change in the life of the villagers, their living methods and the services they are offered.

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The construction of dams in Sudan is usually met with objection and refusal  by the local people of leaving their original home villages and towns. But 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.

Sheikh indicated that 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 in water, electricity, primary health care and roads services and are isolated from each other and from other parts of the country during the rainy season, he added.

Water station

Water station

The official said the previous villages were gathered in 1 villages of 30,000 lodging units with four networks purifying about a thousand cubic meters of water a day and electricity of 880 kilometers long. There are 30 well furnished schools compared to 16 schools made of grass in the previous villages and 24 secondary schools while there was not a single secondary school in the old villages and there are now 25 mosques of a capacity of a thousand worshipers each, compared with six mosques with 150 worshipers each in the previous villages.

According to Sheikh 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, said what has happened was never expected or dreamed of. “We have 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,” Braimah said.

He added that there was nothing that “helps us in carrying out our duties and I could not remain in my office for more than a few hours  due to the lack of public transport but now I work from the morning to the evening because conditions in the locality have changed for the better in the area which witnessed the legendary Tajouj and Muhalluk lovers.”

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MAS/AS