Gov’t didn’t decide on digging Jonglei Canal

The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Barnaba Marial Benjamin (Photo: courtesy)

By William Madouk Garang

The Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the national government did not talk or agreed on the resumption of century-old ‘Jonglei Canal project’ as perceive by public.

Dr. Marial said people have gone ahead speaking about digging of Jonglei Canal, but as the national government, they have not discussed nor touched the issue of the Canal yet.

The minister statement came after some experts and members of public criticized the dredging and resumption of the digging of Jonglei Canal, a petition to stop reviving the 118 years old project by country’s academics was seen.

However, in February this year, the Vice President for Infrastructure Cluster Taban Deng Gai had called for resumption of Jonglei Canal to prevent flood disaster in both Jonglei and Unity states.

According to VP Deng Gai, the devastating flood which has displaced people in Bentiu, Fangak, and Bor towns was due to high volume of water from Lake Victoria, allegedly released by Uganda authorities.

He added that water ways should be opened by resuming digging of the Canal to avoid displacement caused by flooding, asserting that digging of the century-old Canal should be done under local terms not Egyptian interest.

In his speech during the public hearing on the Sudd wetlands and the development and management of the White Nile Water resources to members of parliament, Dr. Marial stated that government has not yet discuss about Jonglei Canal issue.

“In fact our government had not discussed anything to do with Jonglei Canal, people have gone out to speak about Jonglei Canal, an issue that our government had not even talk about,” he asserted during his remark. 

He added though that the issue of Jonglei is not yet pondered on by government of national unity nonetheless experts can give explanation on it.

“But there is nothing wrong in getting a scientific explanation from these experts they may touch on issues of Jonglei Canal, but I can assure you on the side of the government we have not taken up any issue related to Jonglei Canal,”  he emphasized.

Meanwhile, a Sudanese representative to the East African Meteorological Society had cautioned the government against resumption of Jonglei Canal citing climate-related impact.

Dr Hassan Mohammed expressed fear that the excavation of the Canal could lead to the dissipation of moisture in the wetlands and hurt the environment.

On his part national expert Deng Majok suggested that investing in the relocation of the most affected population and communities to high ground or neighboring States should be temporary solution.

Mr. Majok stressed that for flood mitigation construction of higher and bigger dykes around the key towns that are partially submerged would help to protect towns to be operational.

On March this year, the Ministry of Water Recourses and Irrigation had drafted documents on the Jonglei Canal project and was supposed to be tabled before council of Ministers as flood mitigation response.

Jonglei Canal is a project designed to divert access water from vast wetlands of Upper Nile State downstream to Sudan and Egypt respectively. 

The project started during the colonial period in 1954, a year before Sudan gets her independence.

However, it was halted following series of riots by students and the formation of SPLM/A in 1984 which culminated into the second Sudanese Civil war.

Experts have since warned of disastrous ecological and social effect matters including the collapse of fisheries, drying up of grassing land, a drop in groundwater levels and decreasing of the rainfall frequency in the region.

According to UNESCO, the Sudd is a home to some 350 plants species, 470 bird species and over 100 fish species, 100 mammalian species, above 120 insect species and an unknown reptilian and amphibian species.

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