Public outcry: Kiir freezes dredging projects

President Salva Kiir during his nation address on the country’s 11th Independence Anniversary on July 9 2022 (Photo: Presidential Press Unit)

By Taban Henry

President Salva Kiir has ordered all dredging related activities to stop with immediate effect until scientific environment feasibility studies are conducted.

In his address during the 11th independence anniversary the head of State said that in the last few weeks the country has been engaged in emotive debates over the issues of dredging the Bahr el Gazal Basin, specifically the Naam River.

The President stated that the debate had two contending sides that have put forward legitimate arguments both for and against the dredging.

For example, those who support dredging see it as a permanent solution to the persistent floods in the low lying areas. Others in the same group see it (dredging) as a reason of opening the country’s water ways for river transport that will ease transportation bottlenecks in the country.

“Having followed this debate keenly, I realized that this outcry from both sides came because we have not conducted public consultation that addresses the concerns and the fears of those groups. This fears and concerns, whether real or perceived can only be overcome through public consultations and conduct of credible scientific studies of the impact of dredging on the surrounding communities and the SUDD ecosystem,” Kiir said.

According to him debates on dredging without studies is viewed as a path to ecological disaster that will change South Sudan biodiversity forever. This groups fears the loss of marshland which are lifeline for different animal species and a means of livelihood for our fishermen, in short this group opposes dredging on the bases of adverse environmental concerns and the anticipated loss of their economic livelihood.

He stated that it is only after they have done this, will then people on both sides of this debate have confidence to support the dredging project.

“To allow our people to participate in the consultations process without emotions, I am today freezing any planned dredging activities in the SUDD Region until credible professional evidence based studies are carried out on the impacts of dredging both on the surrounding communities and their ecosystems to this effects, I am directing the ministry of Environment and Forestry to initiate the process of identifying and eventually hiring credible experts who will carry out the said feasibility studies,” he said.

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