A United Nations human rights expert has called for a halt to work on two hydroelectric dams in northern Sudan after receiving reports that local communities are about to face large-scale evictions from the area to make way for the projects.
Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, issued a statement yesterday saying he had also received “numerous reports of violations of civil and political rights” – including the shooting of unarmed demonstrators, arbitrary arrests and repressive measures against the media – by the Sudanese Government as it responded to local protests about the projects.
Mr. Kothari said work on the dams in the Merowe and Kajbar areas of the northern Nile Valley should be suspended until an independent assessment can be carried out on the projects’ impact on the local population, estimated at more than 60,000.
He said he has received reports that the Merowe reservoir’s water levels have already risen, destroying dozens of homes in the area and putting many more at risk.
“The affected people have claimed that they received no warning that water levels would be raised and that no assistance from Government authorities has been forthcoming since their houses were destroyed,” Mr. Kothari said.
The Special Rapporteur noted that thousands of people in the same area were relocated in similar circumstances that left many temporarily without food or shelter, and that some of those people remain homeless today.
Given the local opposition, moving forward with the projects “would lead to large-scale forced evictions and further violence,” he said. He urged the Government to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and adequate housing of locals.
Mr. Kothari stressed that the Sudanese authorities must fully comply with international principles and guidelines on how to handle evictions and displacement that follow development projects.
He called on the Government to allow UN human rights monitors into the region to conduct an independent evaluation of the situation.
The Special Rapporteur, who is independent and reports to the UN Human Rights Council, also urged the companies involved in the dams and the countries that have funded the projects to put a halt to the work until the impartial evaluation can be made.