Minister Napwon wants river dredging halted over environmental concerns

The national Minister of Environment & Forestry, Josephine Napwon Cosmos (Photo:  courtesy)

By William Madouk Garang

The National Minister of Environment & Forestry, is up in arms against advance plans to dredge the River Nile and its tributaries as current developments revealed the arrival of machineries in Unity State Bentiu allegedly donated by Egyptian Government for dredging  the Naam River.

Minister Josephine Napwon Cosmos on Wednesday convened a news conference in her office to call for a halt to the activity until appropriate environmental studies is completed, while declaring the plan of dredging the Nile is ‘illegal’.

Napwon said the devastating historical floods in the country was caused by climate change which prompted her ministry to develop mitigation adaption plans to build dikes, and neither dredging of Nile tributaries nor resumption of Jonglei Canal.

Minister Napwon noted that the resumption of Jonglei Canal will drain Sudd wetland which will have negative impact, adding that her office will not approve because of the ecosystem services it provide to country and region.

Last week, the government of Unity State disclosed to the media that they had received dredging machines donated by Egyptian government meant to clear pathway of Naam River in Unity State.

However, speaking during a press conference yesterday, Minister. Josephine Napwon Cosmos said her ministry isn’t aware of the dredging machines donated by Egyptian government and declared the clearing of the river projects as illegal.

“We as the Ministry (of Environment) are not aware and we also saw the equipment on social media and we didn’t even know what the equipment are (meant) for, until we saw, it’s for dredging of the Nile,” Minister Napwon told journalists on Wednesday.

“Rest assured that such projects are not the responsibility of a single ministry and that’s why as a cross-cutting ministry with the mandate of protecting and conserving our environment, no project with such a magnitude without the clearance of the ministry is to be implemented,” she warned.

Ms. Napwon said they are ready to send the team of experts to conduct the environmental studies should the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation ask.

“If the report(s) concludes that the projects have no, minimal or severe environmental or social impacts, with recommended mitigation measures in place, then a letter of no objection will be issued and the project will commence. Therefore since the above process has not commenced, any dredging of the rivers is illegal,” minister Naphon stressed.

Minister added that they will not allow anything that endangers the environment and ecosystem especially when environmental assessment is not conducted the project will be deemed null and void.  

“I don’t think the State government will carry on the project independently without the national government being involved and especially the Ministry of Environment to do assessment.  As we said, we are not against development and of course we are here to also protect the environment,” she hinted.

However, the Director General at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, John Ater said they are not standing against the progress but people should heed to sciences for decision making.

“The minister made it very clear in the press statement as a ministry we’re standing on the idea that let us give chances to scientific environmental assessment as decision making tools which is very good. It will help you to make the right decision,” Ater noted.  

He said the Ministry of Environment is not against development, but it needs a win-win situation where the development takes place and the environment is also protected.

In March this year, the Egyptian government reportedly provided river dredging machineries to the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Manawa Peter for allegedly cleaning pathways of the River Nile.

Gattiek Gatkuoth Wicher, the Press Secretary in the office of the Minister of Water resources, confirmed to the media, the donation of the machines saying that the initiative was intended to mitigate flooding in South Sudan.

A dredging machine or barge is a water vehicle to remove materials such as sand, soil and water weeds in the river.

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