Presidency endorses dredging of Naam River

Presidency endorses dredging of Naam River
Presidency endorses dredging of Naam River

Africa-Press – South-Sudan. Vice President for Infrastructure Cluster, Taban Deng Gai has become the latest high-ranking government official to support the controversial dredging of the Naam River in Unity State.

Speaking during the last prayer meeting for Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, who, at the time of his death was the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, VP Taban said there were serious navigation hurdles because of massive sediments on the river bed which called for dredging.

“During colonial times, the boats were going to Akobo and Pibor during the rainy season because the colonialists were cleaning the river regularly,” he said.

Gai comments added to those of top government officials vouching for the dredging of the rivers. The debate had stirred storm early April when dredgers reportedly from Egypt through Sudan were first reported in Unity State. Some reports also claimed that there was a planned resumption of the construction of Jonglei Canal.

“In my own interest as Taban, not only as a Vice President but also as a native of Bentiu and from Chikang, I strongly support the dredging of the river. And if I were a member of parliament, I would call on the people in Bentiu to embrace this, for the purposes of navigation,” he said.

First Vice President Dr Riek Machar who also spoke during the prayers said the dredging project should be treated as a government plan but not of individuals in the government and called for scientific studies to be carried out before the implementation of the project.

“We want our people to get the right image of the situation we are in as a country. We are unable to control our water because we are not in control of it. We don’t have dams in South Sudan that can control the water,” said Machar.

The controversial debate on whether or not dredging of Naam River is good for the existence of the Sudd Swamp took a new twist on Wednesday, 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 who VP spoke during the official opening of the National Bank of Egypt in South Sudan on Tuesday in Juba.

“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 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 population.

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

“The solution to flooding is to allow people to move to higher grounds, and then construct dykes,” Akec is reported by Sudan Post news outlet in June 2022.

He believes dredging rivers is anything but a scientific solution to the flooding problem, but an old program that would confine people to the exercise periodically.

But VP Taban insists the livelihoods of thousands of South Sudanese cannot be ‘held at ransom’ by flood waters when there is a stop-gap measure that can be adopted as stakeholders train their eyes on long-term solutions.

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