Why the Jonglei Canal Should Never Be Revived

Posted: February 1, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Kur John Aleu, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Kur John Aleu, Beijing, China

Sudd wetlands

February 1, 2018 (SSB) — On the 28th January 2018. The National Courier ran a news story “Jonglei canal should be completed, says an Egyptian official”….. Such utterance from Egyptian official has motivated this article with the intention to inform, educate and dismiss some of the misguided benefits that the proponents of the project always use to mislead and lure the public into accepting what would be the most disgraceful and disastrous project that the generations of the Sudd region will live to regret if the project is allowed to see light.

To some, the canal will provide a buffer between Boma and Jonglei states and thus issues of child abduction and cattle wrestling will come to an end, this argument is ridiculous and motivated by frustration in the government of the day; the aforementioned attributes can be achieved by just having a strong and people’s government in place, a government that will have zero tolerance to criminality, a government where human suffering is not a political capital.

The narrative for flood control is properly addressed in the last part of this article. The rest of the article is organized as follows; the background of the canal, why it was started/benefits to Egypt and Sudan, impacts to Sudd communities and finally the misguided benefits of “flood control”.

Background of Jonglei Canal

In the South(ern) Sudan, the White Nile flows into the vast wetlands of the Sudd, a network of channels, lakes, and swamps flooding an area the size of England. Cutting through the South(ern) Sudanese provinces, from Bor to Malakal.

Jonglei canal2

Jointly financed by Egypt and Sudan and built with French assistance, the canal’s excavation began in earnest in 1978. A huge earth-moving machine dubbed the “Bucketwheel”—then the largest excavator ever built—carved out a ditch 75 meters wide, progressing 2 km a week. At the time, the Jonglei Canal was Africa’s boldest and most daring waterworks scheme, 250 km of the navigable canal was dug, with another 110 km to go. The artificial waterway would have spanned more than twice the length of the Suez Canal.

Benefit of Canal to Egypt and Sudan

Envisioned as a novel way to divert the White Nile’s waters to bypass swamps, the Jonglei Canal was designed to circumvent the Sudd so as to generate an additional 4.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water available annually (equal to a mean annual discharge of 110–152 m³/s an increase of around five to seven percent of Egypt’s current supply) to be equally split between Sudan and Egypt.

The Blue Nile originates from the Ethiopian highlands and carries roughly 80 percent of the water that reaches Egypt. The White Nile, which streams from the equatorial lakes of Central Africa and snakes through southern Sudan, carries the remaining 20 percent. The river’s two branches meet in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Under a 1959 water-sharing agreement between Egypt and Sudan, 18.5 billion cubic meters of Nile water is allocated annually to Sudan and 55.5 billion cubic meters to its downstream neighbor.

Consequences of Jonglei canal

Environmentalists have warned of the canal’s ecological consequences. Reducing evaporation in the Sudd swamps by diverting water, would likely lessen rainfall in the Sudd region. Draining the wetlands would alter fisheries and drying of grazing land a delicate ecosystem the indigenous Dinka, Shilluk and Nuer tribes of the South(ern) Sudan have come to depend on and would never accept the implementation of such disastrous project in their watch.

Misguided flood’s remedy

There have been preferential opinions about the canal on the viewpoint of flood control in the floodplain region of Sudd. This argument is purely misguided and out of ignorant, flooding is not a very complex process, its causes and remedies are within the reach of even the least technological developed society like ours, trading off our God-given heritage and resources on that ground will be a fallacy of time. To understand the simplicity of the matter, the below paragraphs provide a chronological process, remedies and even associated benefits of flooding.

How flooding occurs

During times of rain, some of the water is retained in ponds or soil, some are absorbed by grass and vegetation, some evaporates, and the rest travels over the land as Surface runoff. Floods occur when ponds, lakes, riverbeds, soil, and vegetation cannot absorb all the water. Water then runs off the land in quantities that cannot be carried within stream channels or retained in natural ponds, lakes, and man-made reservoirs.

Jonglei canal1

Better Methods of flood control

Some methods of flood control have been practiced since ancient times. These methods include planting vegetation to retain extra water and the construction of floodways (man-made channels to divert floodwater). Other techniques include the construction of levees, lakes, dams (Earth dam) reservoirs, retention ponds to hold extra water during times of flooding.

Benefits of flooding

Flooding can bring benefits, such as making the soil more fertile and providing nutrients in which it is deficient. Periodic flooding was essential to the well-being of ancient communities along the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers( Ancient Mesopotamia), the Nile River, the Indus River, the Ganges and the Yellow River, among others. The viability for hydrologically based renewable sources of energy is higher in flood-prone regions.

The author, Kur John Aleu, is a Student of Transportation Engineering at the Beijing Jiaotong University; he holds B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from Ndejje University (2012) in Kampala, Uganda. He can be reached via his email: kurjohnaleu@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

  1. KERSTIN says:

    An important topic


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