Africa-Press – South-Sudan. The controversial debate on whether or not dredging of Naam River is good for the existence of the Sudd Swamp took a new twist, as Vice President Dr. James Wani Igga dismissed the opponents of the project on the basis that their claims are ‘unscientific’.
VP Igga, who is the chairperson of the Economic Cluster, scoffed at the claims by those opposed to the project that such dredging would kill Sudd’s rich biodiversity.
The VP spoke to various invited dignitaries during the official opening of the National Bank of Egypt in South Sudan on Tuesday in Juba.
The dredging controversy was awakened in June, when dredging machines arrived in Bentiu supposedly from Egypt through the neighboring Sudan. The resumption of construction of Jonglei Canal, whose controversy dates decades back, is part of the project.
But it is his decision to wade into the controversial topic during a launch of National Bank of Egypt that is intriguing. The project is allegedly backed by Egypt, but in South Sudan, this has sparked mixed reactions within the government, and criticism from concerned academia, citizens, and lawmakers over the past months.
“Flood displaces about 80 per cent of our people in Pangak and 40 per cent of people in Bor leave alone people in Akobo,” Igga said. “Some people are saying the wetlands will drain.”
Dr. Igga, who is one of the dredging proponents, said the lack of ‘scientific-based’ information hampered the project’s implementation but that it would ‘benefit’ the country’s population, wondering why such sparked opposition.
However, he did not give details on how the dredging would ‘benefit’ the country’s populations.
South Sudan’s government and Egyptian counterpart agreed to implement the project in 2008 before the country’s cessation from Sudan in 2011 but interrupted by the post-independence protracted conflict that ended with the 2018 revitalized peace deal.
“We brought the equipment for dredging to Bentiu in 2010, unfortunately, the war of 2013 broke out and parts were destroyed, and to make things worse, the war of 2016 destroyed the rest,” he said.
According to him, the government decided to go for the project following scientific consideration by interrogating the ‘dangers’ of no supply while River Nile was the most reliable source of water supply to the landlocked country.
“On September 20 last year, the council of ministers discussed the issue and we resolved that dredging will have to take place in the [the council of minister’s] resolution 29/2021,”Igga said,
But he said the council ministers agreed to cease going ahead with the Jonglei Canal pending feasibility study.
He said, “Let us not destroy our country because of lack of information … Our government under the leadership of President Salva Kiir will not betray our people, never…” the vice president said.