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“The green belt will be as grey as soil”, Prof. Akec warns over revival of Jonglei Canal

Author: Chany Ninrew | Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Prof. John Akec, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba - Courtesy

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba has warned that any revival of the Jonglei Canal Project will bring an environmental disaster to the whole country.

Prof. John Akec made the appeal in response to the ongoing controversies surrounding the stalled project as well as the recent plans to open the pathways of some tributaries of the Nile River.

Early this month, the National Parliament summoned two national ministers over the planned dredging along the Naam River and Bahr El Ghazal Basin.

The Committee for Environment and Forestry at the parliament said it was concerned about plans to clear the waterway along the Nile River as well as the alleged resumption of the Canal.

The Jonglei Canal is a project designed to divert water from the vast Sudd wetlands of Upper Nile so as to deliver more water downstream to Sudan and Egypt.

The project started during the colonial period in 1954, a year before Sudan gained its independence.

The canal’s benefits would be shared by Egypt and Sudan, with the expected damage falling on South Sudan.

Experts have since warned of catastrophic environmental and social issues including the collapse of fisheries, drying of grazing lands, a drop in groundwater levels, and a reduction of rainfall in the region.

The excavation was halted by the SPLA in 1984 after Akec and other Southern students rioted against the project.

However, the issue resurfaced in February this year, when Vice President Taban Deng Gai called for the resumption of the canal project in order to prevent flood disasters in Jonglei and Unity states.

Meanwhile, Prof. John Akec warns that the project will have a serious impact on South Sudan.

“This issue has been all in the news. There are plans to revive that project. I know very much about this project and as students in intermediate schools in the 70th, we actually demonstrated against it,” Prof. Akec told Eye Radio on Tuesday.

“The message even at that time you know was that the impact that we had was going to be very serious on South Sudan. Very plainly, Jonglei Canal is going to give Egypt 10 million cubic meters of water.

“If you drain 10 million cubic meters of water and give it to Egypt, it will actually disrupt the ecological cycle and Western Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal which are known as the green belt will be as grey as soil.”

Prof. Akec has started a social media petition and is seeking about 100,000 signatures against the plan.

He has so far obtained 10,000 signatures and plans to submit the petition to the president upon the attainment of the required number.

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