In July 2007, Hilary Clinton, then a candidate for US President proposed a no-flight zone over Darfur, to prevent the Sudanese government from bombing their own citizens. It was an attempt to call to a halt what has been described as the first genocide of the 21st Century. At the same time though, scientists from Boston University made an astonishing discovery beneath the ground of Darfur, which had from 2003 to 2007 been the site of 200,000 killings in a brutal civil war.
The scientists from Boston discovered an undergound lake the size of Lake Erie. It looked like a problem solves. A UN Report on Darfur that year had concluded that “exponential population growth and related environmental stress have created the conditions for conflicts to be triggered.” Of course things aren’t that simple. Getting the water out would be a problem. Then there is the history of Sudan; a tale of conflict between different racial groups, between farmers and nomadic tribes; between Arab and Christians.
That is why a group of Polish architects H3AR have proposed a building that allows access to underground waters through the application of water pumps but also acts as a cultural exchange point that promotes the coexistence of the three different religions and languages in Sudan.The form of the by water tower is inspired not by a symbol of the African savanna – the baobab. The building would not just house water pumps and a treatment plant but also a hospital, a school and a food storage centre.
It’s a great idea: a serious project but one which also makes a political proposition to the elite of Sudan. As the article in the New York Times makes clear. The racial and social conflict in Darfur is a result of the attempts by the Khartoum based elite to retain power. They created armed guerilla groups to hold potential rebels at bay. These guerilla groups then act as a de facto army eradicating the populous rather than those who might just threaten the government. These towers might never be built but they stand as a provacative alternative to the existing power relationships in Sudanese land-usage.