Opinions differ on VP Taban’s suggestion on Jonglei Canal

Vice President for Infrastructure Cluster, General Taban Deng Gai

By James Atem Kuir

Different opinions surround the recent comments by Vince President for Infrastructure Cluster, General Taban Deng Gaiover his suggesting that completion of the controversial Jonglei Canal would control the devastating seasonal flooding that had continued to wreak havoc in parts of Jonglei and Unity states for the past three years.

The contentious canal project was a canal project that started but was never completed, to divert water from the vast Sudd wetlands of South Sudan so as to deliver more water downstream to Sudan and Egypt for use in agriculture.

“The livelihood of people in Bentiu, Fangak, and Bor has been destroyed by recent floods. People are asking who opened this huge volume of water because we never experienced this for decades. Of course, Ugandan and Kenya opened the water, because Kampala was almost submerged because of the rising level of water from Lake Victoria.

“The digging of the Jonglei Canal that was stopped needs to be revised but should be done under our terms not based on the Egyptian interest. We must study it, and must be acceptable to all South Sudanese.

“For our land not to be submerged by flood, let’s allow this water to flow to those who need it in Egypt,” Vice President Taban was quoted as saying by Eye Radio in a story published on February 28th, 2022.

However, in a Twitter post on Wednesday, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Joseph AfricanoBarteldisapproved of MrTaban’ssuggestion saying there are other ways of controlling the floods. MrBartelalso urged the vice president to reserve his ‘utterances’ until a proper scientific study and expert consultations were conducted.

“There are other flood mitigation options other than the resumption of the Canal Project. The Ministry of Environment will advise the VP and hope such utterances will only be made after conducting scientific studies and expert consultations,” MrBartel wrote on his Twitter handle and seen by Juba Monitor on Wednesday.

The Jonglei Canal project which has been halted since 1984 due to the outbreak of second civil war in the then Sudan, is considered a major threat to the existence of the largest wetlands in Africa which stretches about 57000 square kilometers from Mangalla to the White Nile/Sobat River confluence near Malakal.

During the celebration of World Wetlands Day on February 2, 2022, the Minister of Environment Josephine Napwon Cosmos warned that oil exploration and resumption of the canal project would impact the ecology of the Sudd system and the surrounding population.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the swamps and floodplains of the Sudd support a rich biota, including over four hundred bird species and one hundred mammal species.

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