Machar wants Egypt included in dredging talks

Machar wants Egypt included in dredging talks
The Sudd Wetlands, a major source of livelihood of many South Sudanese citizens. [Photo: Courtesy]

The First Vice President Dr Riek Machar has called for the inclusions of Egyptian think tanks in the ongoing talks on the dredging of the rivers and digging of Jonglei Canal.

He said that this is one of the ways to avert more trouble once government makes a conclusive decision.

Machar made this appeal as he opened the session of the executive arms of government as experts guided the discourse on the safety status of the project.

Dr Machar argued that involving the Cairo administration would be a good gesture of giving it a ‘token of appreciation for assistance they had been offering South Sudan’ and approaching the issue with the blessing of the neighbour.

“We must have people who have specialised even in narrow areas. Even on microbiology of the wetlands, so, it could have been good if we invited them, let’s debate, this is openness. So that tomorrow they don’t blame us that we make a decision that they may not like,” Dr Machar said as he addressed the forum.

“The question is not flooding, the question is development, management and control of our water resources. It is a key resource I believe some will tell you that the wetlands not only in tourism, but also in other aspects such as carbon credit, it is the biggest. This is where we could even construct the five dams using the presence of the wetlands.”

The First Vice President noted that the decision should be made ‘‘based on national interest but not against any foreign nation.’’ He stressed that Egyptians had been assisting South Sudan, and decisions on dredging or digging of canal ‘‘must not be based on any prejudice.’’

“We have no issues with the Egyptians. Some of us whether from the engineering background or from the political background have no issue with them. We know what they have presented to South Sudan. The help they have given to South Sudan. So we cannot stigmatize our people against them,” said the First Vice President.

“And those of us who are alive, would want to correct those. We should not make our decision based on the fact that we have something against the Egyptians, no. We must make our decisions on our national interest. This is important.”

He added that the country had the right to claim the presence of institutions running the Nile Basin Initiatives in Juba.

He traced the birth of the Jonglei Canal project to the older days, saying it was included in SPLM manifesto to aid in the struggle and also that the cabinet had approved around $28.2 million for procurement of equipment for dredging yet to arrive.

He clarified that the equipment in Bentiu were procured by the Egyptian government for dredging and clearing of aquatic weeds using their grant but not necessarily bought by the South Sudanese government.

Conservation needed

Deng Majk Chol, a PhD candidate at Oxford University, stated that what South Sudan faces is water insecurity, and recommended that the country should allocate 10-15% of her budget towards its water resources management.

“South Sudan Water Insecurity. Families are submerge in water, but they don’t have clean drinking water. The one recommendation here is that South Sudan, is in a unique situation, so that it can allocate 10-15% of its national budget, and they can learn from Egypt that prioritizes water as livelihood and has a significant portion of their budget,” stated Majok.

He further suggested that the national ministries related to water resources management and environment should liaise with international institutions to grant them the usage of their laboratories to carry out a robust research establishing whether the country would have water in the next 50 or 100 years or not.

“There are institutions that can give our national experts opportunity and our relevant ministries to collaborate with them, to do a long range study to muddle whether we will have more water or less water. And they can muddle from today, to the mid-century, 50 years from now and even 100 years from now,” Majok concluded.

Prof Tag Elkhazin, an expert from Ottawa, Canada—who was tasked with consultation and feasibility study on Sudd Wetlands and Jonglei Canal—stated that Jonglei Canal started in 1904 as a colonial project to drain the Sudd and give 10 billion cubic metres of water to Egypt by drying the Sudd.

“A British fellow was in-charge of hydraulics and water in Egypt. He came down to drain the Sudd and give the water to Egypt. And the scenario was that let us dry most of the Sudd and that would have given them 10 billion cubic metres of water,” Prof Tag said.

“And then they said, well, there are people living on the wetland, so they came with the figure of anything between 4.4 billion cubic metres to 4.8 billion cubic metres. That is the figure that is being talked about today.”

He stressed that there was no sensible connection between Jonglei Canal and the floods adding that the canal was meant to channel water to Egypt.

“And I see no connection really between floods and Jonglei Canal. The Jonglei Canal was designed to siphon out the water of South Sudan, into the Nile and into Egypt,” Prof Tag added.

He recommended that the government should get a funding of over $100,000 for resource evaluation, and update, to modernize or complete a water policy document for 10-15-20 years.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit halted activities related to dredging and digging of Jonglei Canal on the Eleventh Anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, to give way for experts to carry out a feasibility study and come up with tangible findings on which a conclusive decision will be made without a regret and impact on the future of the nation.

However, women in Unity State yesterday took local tools like hoes, machetes among other and started clearing water ways in Naam River at Rubkona County, Unity State.