South Sudan denies resuming work on Jonglei Canal

By Awan Achiek

South Sudan’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation has denied resuming work on the decades’ old Jonglei Canal project found in Jonglei State.

Gattiek Wichar, the Press Secretary in the office of the Minister of Water Resources Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, on Tuesday said they are currently conducting feasibility study on the impact of Jonglei Canal on the current flood situation in the country.

 “The Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation has just made a proposal to make feasibility study on the impact of Jonglei Canal on the current flood situation,” Wichar told The Juba Echo in an interview in Juba.

He dismissed allegations that the ministry imported machines to start work on the canal.

Wichar disclosed that the Ministers of Water Resources, Environment and Humanitarian Affairs were recently directed by the Council of Ministers to assess the situation in flood affected areas.

The Jonglei Canal was a canal project started, but never completed, to divert water from the vast Sudd wetlands of South Sudan so as to deliver more water downstream to Sudan and Egypt for use in agriculture.

Sir William Garstin proposed the idea of the canal in 1907; the government of Egypt conducted a study in 1946; and plans took shape between 1954 and 1959 during the period of decolonization which included Sudanese independence in 1956.

Against the context of Sudan’s postcolonial civil conflict, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), led by John Garang, halted construction of the canal in 1984.

 “What is circulating on social media that the minister has requested some tools and that those tools have arrived in the country and are ready for construction of that canal is misleading information,” said Wichar.

 “As a country now, we want to study the 250 km dug on the Jonglei Canal, and its impact on livelihood, climate change, and ecosystem. So there is no plan on resumption of the Jonglei Canal,” he added.

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