Kiir orders assessment on Naam River prior to ‘cleaning’

By William Madouk  

President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Monday okayed the conduct of the feasibility studies for environmental social impact assessments on the Naam River prior to the cleaning.

This means the proposed dredging or cleaning of River Nile tributaries by Ministry of Water and Irrigation will be on hold, until Josephine Napwon’s docket completes scientific research before giving green light.

President Kiir said the recent heatwave with temperatures hovering 40 degrees, drought and floods are true signs that climate change is already affecting the country.

Mr. Kiir also ordered the minister of Finance to avail required resources to enable the Ministry of Environment and Forestry start its mandates and conduct feasibility studies on Naam River.

“I am directing the Ministry of Finance and Planning to avail fund for the conduct of feasibility studies for environmental social impact assessment on the Naam River and for building resilience of flood affected communities,” Kiir said.

The Head-of-state also emphasized that all sectors of the government must incorporate the strategies and plan of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – 2023/24 by the Ministry of Environment. 

According to him, this will enable the country to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change by planting trees and other renewable sources for clean energy.

“Besides planting trees, the generation of 300MW of clean energy from renewable sources such as hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and natural gas must commence and the work of phasing out diesel generators must start immediately,” he directed.

On February, 2023, President Salva Kiir led the vice presidents in discussion on “cleaning” the White Nile and Nam rivers months after their suspension, which divided opinions, with ecologists fearing that the exercise could impact the ecology of the Sudd wetlands.

“The Presidency also discussed cleaning the White Nile River, starting from Bentiu to Lake No and Bentiu to the Nam River in Bahr el Ghazal,” read the statement shared on J1 page.

Also, the meeting that brought together the principals was the cleaning of the section of the White Nile from Bentiu town in Unity State to the country’s largest Lake No in Ruweng Administrative Area.

The statement however did not indicate whether the presidency had agreed to allow the cleaning of the rivers, which President Kiir suspended in 2022 amid public outcry.

The wetland, which is a UNESCO registered world heritage site, covers an estimated area of approximately 57,000 km2 and runs from Central Equatoria State through Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states, among other parts.

It is Africa’s largest wetland and home to thousands of rare species of wildlife and vegetation.

Whether to dredge the Naam River or not to dredge has been putting environmentalists and supporters of such initiatives on a collision path.

Water Resources and Irrigation Ministry had proposed a project to dredge rivers and resume digging of the Jonglei Canal. But this development has no doubt elicited mixed reactions from various stakeholders.

The Minister for Environment and Forestry, Josephine Napwon, disowned the project saying it must not commence until proper assessment had been made of the dire consequences and possible benefits of such a project.

She noted that the project was designed to address the impacts of floods which had displaced over 800,000 people.

The minister added that her ministry was yet to be notified about the project, adding that it required extensive research before its commencement.

Prof. John Akec, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba has been one of the fierce critics of the dredging of Nile tributaries, saying that is not a scientific solution to the flooding menace that is witnessed from time to time.

Those in support of the dredging said it will ease transportation along the water bodies and reduce flooding as well.

The other concern of those opposing the dredging, was an alleged secret agreement the government made with Egypt to allow it carry out the exercise along the rivers.

Egypt which depends on the waters of the Nile for most of its industrial, agricultural, and domestic uses, has a vested interest in the management of the Nile waters.

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