Nyandeng : Dredging, canal digging non issues; deal with oil pollution

Nyandeng : Dredging, canal digging non issues; deal with oil pollution
Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng at Juba Airport. [Photo: Mamer Abraham, City Review]

The Vice President for Gender and Youth Cluster, Rebecca Nyandeng has warned that the water issue is such a fragile topic that could drag South Sudan to international courts.

While siding with President Salva Kiir on the decision to suspend dredging of rivers and digging of Jonglei Canal, Nyandeng, cautioned that unless addressed with sobriety, the issue could attract a lawsuit from member countries of the Nile Basin Initiative.

She stressed that water was not the major problem because it had been existing since time immemorial and “people had been surviving.”

“I stand with those people who say that debate has to be given a chance. Nile water is international water and South Sudan is not responsible for that water. We are part of the Nile basin, and we need to consult with them,” said the vice president.

“The issue of dredging will come after. Now the government and the president have heard the voices of the people of South Sudan. That’s how the leadership is. So, I support that suspension,” she added.

Nyandeng supported public consultation and feasibility study and encouraged debates as useful tools to gear the nation towards development and not diverting from implementation of Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

“The public debate is very important; it’s healthy if it is allowed to take its course. [But] the resumption of canal of Jonglei, is not a priority for South Sudan.”

According to Nyandeng, the hazard that should be addressed is oil pollution in Unity State and not dredging.

“What I know very dangerous for the people like people of Unity State, People of Upper Nile, is the issue of the oil pollution. Oil pollution is the real problem that we the leaders are supposed to be discussing, not the issue of dredging,” VP Nyandeng advised.

Last week, the First Vice President Dr Riek Machar, Vice President for Economic Cluster Dr James Wani Igga, and Vice President for Infrastructure Taban Deng Gai asked the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Minister for Environment and the Minister for Transport, to continue with dredging at the closing ceremony of public consultations at Freedom Hall.

Push for project

Dr Machar said the council of ministers had already decided the project to commence and not even experts should devalue it.

“On some of the recommendations, can you pledge them? Don’t forget that we are the government, and we have a resolution in the Council of Ministers. Nobody overturns it, only the Council of Ministers. So, am I being heard?” Dr Machar asked.

The Vice President for Economic Cluster, Dr James Wani Igga, called for urgent rescue to citizens deprived of their major sources of livelihood by floods.

“In Bentiu now, maybe 50 per cent are displaced, and we think we should wait until all the scientists of the world are finished and then we will come and rescue them, from drowning? ah, that would be very insensitive. Death is death cannot wait,” Dr Igga said.

“The aim here is not only to reduce the flooding, but it is also to create navigation for us; transport. We just want to remove the sand and the mud that has been thrown there without increasing it.”      

The Vice President for Infrastructure Cluster, Taban Deng Gai stressed the need to clean the river which was not mentioned by experts in their recommendations.

The issue has torn up the presidency in the middle with the Vice President for Service Delivery Cluster, Hussein Abdelbagi, being the only official yet to take a stand.

An expert tasked with consultation and feasibility study, Prof Tag Elkhazin, during the consultation warned the nation not to dredge rivers or dig Jonglei Canal to avoid regrets.

The expert stated that water resource management was national security and not for politicians to play with.

“Floods do not need canals. For over 50 years, I never heard that any nation built a canal to drain water in the main passage of a river to control floods. A British person said for nature to be mastered, it must be obeyed. We cannot oppose nature, if the rain wants to fall it is going to fall,” he said.

Among his recommendations were construction of dykes and digging of Haffirs to control water to avoid dangers of channeling water to Egypt and support transhumance by pastoralist communities across the country.