The Arab minority government of Sudan has recently secured construction contracts for several dams, and the work on these hydroelectric projects will start soon without any announcement. Once these projects are completed, they will immediately flood all nearby archaeological sites.
The construction will begin without notification or announcement because of the major protests from local Nubians, who are disputing the benefits of the construction of the Dal Dam (second cataract) and Kajbar Dam (third cataract). The Sudanese government has indicated that the dams will create additional electricity for the benefit of the local citizens, and electricity is indeed an uncontested necessity for a country to develop, but the means to acquire this electricity is often contested and controversial.
The goal of these projects is to create electricity, but the Sudanese government has not demonstrated concern about the social, environmental and archaeological impact of these projects. Also, the Sudanese government has not considered cleaner, less devastating, alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines.
The local Nubian citizens in the affected areas do not agree that these hydroelectric projects will benefit them, and this is based on their past experience with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, which flooded an important Nubian region in northern Sudan and southern Egypt. The Aswan Dam created a 340-mile long lake which flooded 39 Nubian villages and submerged innumerable priceless artifacts.
Thus, the Nubians are convinced that the current hydroelectric projects are simply part of an ongoing scheme to erase their culture. For example, the Nubian environmental scientist Dr. Arif Gamal notes, “By flooding the last of the remaining Nubian lands … the Nubians are reduced to a group of people with no sense of memory, no past and no future too.”
The Nubian voices should be respected in this matter because they are the affected community, and the World Commission on Dams has clearly indicated in its November 2000 report that “no dam should be built without the demonstrable acceptance of the affected people.”
The mission of the Save Nubia Project (SNP) is to help raise national and international awareness about the pending flooding of the central areas of the ancient Kushite and Nubian civilizations in the Sudan. There are a series of dams (from the second through fifth cataracts) scheduled for construction, each of which will cause the Nile River to back up and create a reservoir and flood countless ancient archaeological sites and displace well over 100,000 local Sudanese people mostly Nubians. Thus, the Save Nubia Project’s task is to document that the dam construction areas in northern and central Sudan are valuable World Heritage Sites that are in danger of being destroyed, and should be preserved.
The SNP’s focus is three-fold:
1) To document, record and publish historical and archaeological evidence on the importance of this historic northern and central Sudan region;
2) To present compelling evidence to UNESCO, which has the authority to designate the Sudanese dam areas as World Heritage Sites under threat, which may help protect these areas from dam construction and inundation. There are other sources of energy available in Sudan, such as solar panels and wind turbines; and
3) To assist the local Nubian people near the second and third cataracts to build a series of museums to help preserve their heritage.
How you can help save Nubia
“The Vanishing Evidence of Classical African Civilizations: Ancient Kush and Nubia Under Threat,” a fundraiser to support the Save Nubia Project, is Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 3-6 p.m., at Linen Life Gallery, 770 East 14th St., San Leandro, San Francisco, one block from Davis Avenue. Parking is available in the lot. Funds will support urgent field research in Sudan. For more information, contact (510) 273-2456, [email protected] and www.savenubia.org.
Professor Manu Ampim, an historian and primary (first-hand) researcher specializing in African and African American history and culture, earned a master’s degree from Morgan State University and teaches at Contra Costa College and Merritt College in Oakland. He is a major contributor to Ivan Van Sertima’s “Egypt: Child of Africa” (1994) and can be reached at [email protected].