Vice President James Wani Igga has revealed, the planned dredging project was approved by the Council of Ministers, and the issue of Jonglei Canal subjected to public debate and feasibility studies.
The Economic Cluster Vice President exposed Tuesday, that the cabinet passed the decision in its resolution number 39/2021.
According to Dr. Wani Igga, only a handful of ministers opposed the proposal last year, and that the decision was final.
“We in the Council of Ministers agreed to it, and some ministers who were against it, maybe two or three, when we discussed this fact and we passed it as a resolution that dredging will have to start,” said VP Wani.
Early this month, authorities in Unity State said they were poised to install the dredging machines to open the pathway of the Naam river.
The stance by the local authority in Unity comes amidst public concerns that the planned dredging of rivers will leave the plains of Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal region dry and inflict an irreversible damage to the ecosystem on the sudd wetland.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wani Igga, who spoke during an event in Juba Tuesday, revealed the intention to dredge the Bahr el- Ghazal and Bahr el Jebel tributaries was long decided in 2006.
“The background is that since CPA 2006, the issue of dredging becomes necessary and it was discussed by the then government of Southern Sudan before the independence, they accepted and the then government signed MOUs with Egypt,” the top official said.
According to reports, the controversies surrounding the use of the Nile water are not recent.
In 1929, an agreement was concluded between Egypt and Great Britain regarding the utilization of the waters of the Nile River, in which Britain was supposedly representing its colonies in the Nile River Basin.
The deal granted Egypt an annual water allocation of 48 billion cubic meters and Sudan 4 billion cubic meters out of an estimated average annual yield of 84 billion cubic meters.
In addition, the 1929 agreement granted Egypt veto power over construction projects on the Nile River or any of its tributaries in an effort to minimize any interference with the flow of water into the Nile.
Last year, the governments of South Sudan and Egypt signed agreements, including a memo on a study to reduce the risk of flooding in the Sudd swamp in South Sudan.
Juba and Cairo also deliberated on a memorandum of understanding to promote trade and industry between the two countries.
“So on the 20th September 2021, the cabinet discussed this issue and we resolved that dredging must take place. Resolution number 39/2021 the issue of dredging of water in Bahr el Ghazel and Bahr el Jebel,” Vice President Wani cited the cabinet resolution on his speech papers.
The senior official went on to clarify that the dredging project has nothing to do with digging of the Jonglei Canal, saying some citizens have misunderstood the projects.
“About Jonglei Canal, and open your ears please so that misunderstanding is erased. The resumption of Jonglei Canal is put under discussion and feasibility study,’ he said.
The presidency official also asserted that people are displaced in the low-lying areas of the country and that more flooding is expected.
“In the district of Panyijiar, eighty per cent of the population are displaced, they have gone to higher grounds near Malakal and Bor about sixty per cent of the people are displaced they have gone to different areas,
Dr Igga claimed the disadvantages of dredging the Nile are minimal, compared to the advantages.
“Disadvantages are more than advantages. I will tell you my friend if there is any disadvantage it will not be more than one per cent. Ninety-nine per cent will be advantages for our people,” he told the gathering.
Meanwhile, the statement of Vice President Wani Igga contradicts a recent position of the office of the president.
On the 8th of this month, the Office of the President came out to state that the leadership was not officially informed about the acquisition of the Nile River dredging machines from Egypt.
The Minister of Environment also issued a press statement declaring dredging plan illegal, and the immediate halting of the process until an environmental risk assessment is conducted.
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