Posted on June 13, 2022
JUBA – Residents of Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s Unity State, are appealing to the national government to go ahead with the dredging initiative of Naam River, accusing some national leaders of politicizing the initiative which they believe will rescue them from floods.
Last week, South Sudan’s national Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced the arrival of heavy river dredging machines from the Arab Republic of Egypt via Sudan, sparking mixed reactions on social media with some accusing leaders of working to implement a project that they believe should be well studied first.
However, contradicting statements from the presidency, the ministry of water resources & irrigation, as well as from the ministry of environment & forestry, as to how the dredging initiative is going to be conducted has cast doubts as to when the process will begin.
While the ministry of water resources and irrigation maintains that the plan to help clean weeds in the rivers dated back to 2006 and was concluded in an agreement signed last year in the Egyptian capital Cairo between South Sudanese and Egyptian officials, the presidency says the government is not informed about the process and also about the machines.
“The government has not given any approval yet on clearing Nile water or clearing the plants that are inside the Nile. We have not yet been told about those machines completely,” Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek Ateny said Tuesday about the entire process.
The ministry of environment and forestry also said it ordered suspension of the dredging initiative because highly important environmental risk assessment process – which should be conducted before the project starts – has not been done.
“The dredging of the rivers will be put on hold or will be stopped for a while until we do the environmental risk assessment and then we see the benefit to us as a country,” minister of environment and forestry Josephine Napwon told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday.
“You can’t just go and do the dredging of the river without doing any environmental studies or environmental assessment. Maybe, there are people behind the project who want the water to run very fast to drain South Sudan and other regions,” she added.
Speaking to Sudans Post on Friday evening, several residences of Bentiu and Rubkona, the two cities making up Bentiu town, said they agree with the dredging initiative and appealed to the national government to go ahead because they believe it will relief them of floods.
Gatluak Malual, one of fish traders, said he expects that the dredging of the Naam River will rescue the citizens from displacements caused by floods and accused the government of not carrying about the situation of the citizens in Unity State which has been devastated by floods.
“For me, I am for the dredging of the [Naam] river because this will help the people instead of always constructing dike which is usually destroyed by water only a few days after,” Malual said, adding that “the government seems to care about their positions in Juba even the sons of Bentiu in the national government haven’t helped in anyway.”
Stephen Bol, a resident of Bentiu town who works for the state ministry of education as a teacher said he support the initiative, “but because some politicians are turning it into politics of who love South Sudan the most and who want to sell it, I don’t think that we will get help in the nearest future from them.”
‘So called experts’
While contradictions continue to build in Juba among various stakeholders in the government as to what is happening regarding the dredging process, state officials seem to be on the same chapter in favour of the dredging initiative.
Unity State minister of housing, land and public utilities, Lam Tungwar Kweiguong, who doubles as the chairman of Leek Community, went up to the Sudanese/South Sudanese border to welcome the machines and expressed hopes that the dredging of the river, an important River Nile tributary, will ease the suffering of the people from floods.
Also, a spokesman for Governor Joseph Nguen Manytuil lambasted experts for giving wrong suggestions that he says promote nothing less or more than the suffering of the people of Unity State from floods and says citizens in the oil-rich state cannot afford, any longer, the flooding which is escalating given the rainy season.
“The reality is that we cannot afford the ongoing catastrophic situations [of floods] facing by our people. Should we listen [to] the so called experts? Our people will suffer more than [we expect],” Forty-Six Bakuony, the press secretary for governor Manytuil wrote on his Facebook page.
“The choice is ours: we either listen to the so-called experts inflicting severe suffering on our people, or we reject the calls politicizing the dredging of Naam River to save our people from devastated flood,” he added.