Contested Nam River dredging to start soon

By Yien Gattuor Mead 

Authorities in Unity State have officially confirmed the first week of March as the commencement of the controversial Nam River dredging which the government later simplified as river cleaning in the layman’s language to convince some people who earlier protested the idea.

This new development came when Unity State governor Dr. Joseph Manytuil inspected equipment kept at the State Capital, Bentiu, in preparation for the hotly controversial river cleaning exercise.

According to Peter Bakuony, the press secretary in the office of the area governor, more equipment will arrive from Juba to Bentiu in the coming days before the cleaning exercise for two sections of the Naam River kicks off.

The first sections will be from Unity State capital Bentiu to the Bahr el Ghazal region and from Bentiu to Lake No in Ruweng Administrative Area.

“There are some machines that are already here in Bentiu, but there are others that are going to arrive from Juba in the few days to come thereafter, and the clearing of the Naam River will start,” Bakuony told the No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper in an exclusive interview yesterday.

He however said the exact start date of the river cleaning and clearing exercise will depend on the arrival of the equipment from Juba.

“Cleaning will begin in Bentiu and extend to Bahr el Ghazal, as well as from Bentiu to Lake No,” he added.

Manytuil spokesperson also claimed a section of the White Nile from Juba to Malakal will be cleaned as part of government efforts to ease transportation along the Nile River.

“The clearing is not only for the Naam River; it will also involve the White Nile because the purpose is to ease river transportation. The cleaning of the White Nile will start from Juba up to Malakal because there is a lot of vegetation blocking movement, so the project is bigger than you think,” he said.

Recently President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his first deputy and other deputies held a discussion on the prospects of cleaning and clearing the rivers.

The principals discussed the cleaning of the White Nile and Naam Rivers but didn’t mention any agreement on effecting the exercise.

In July last year President Salva Kiir suspended the planned dredging of the Nile tributaries after widespread criticism from the public and water resource and environmental experts.

Dredging of the Nile tributaries is seen as a threat to the Sudd wetlands according to experts which is home to some of the rarest species of fauna and flora that depend on the Nile waters to sustain its ecosystem.

A UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, the Sudd covers an estimated area of 57,000 km2, making it the largest wetland in Africa and the second largest in the world after Amazon.

President Kiir while suspending the exercise last year said he took the decision to allow for environmental studies on the impacts of the project on the communities and the Sudd’s ecosystem.

There have not been any publicly known studies carried out on the project. However, in October last year, government spokesperson and minister of information Michael Makuei Lueth announced that the cabinet had approved the cleaning and clearing of the rivers for navigation purposes.

This move came despite calls for the conduct of credible feasibility studies on the impacts of the dredging of the Nile as one of the recommendations generated during a public consultation.

Kiir commissioned the consultations to draw different public views on the dredging project. The recommendations of the consultations have since then been handed to him.

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