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‘I’m today freezing any planned dredging activities’ – Kiir

‘I’m today freezing any planned dredging activities’ – Kiir
President Salva Kiir addressing the nation on the 11th anniversary of the Independence Day - July 9, 2022. Credit//Office of the President

President Salva Kiir has suspended the controversial plans to dredge the Naam river until further feasibility studies are conducted.

In his speech on the 11th anniversary of Independence Day, Kiir directed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to engage experts in conducting a credible scientific study of the impact of dredging on the surrounding communities and the SUDD ecosystem.

For weeks now, South Sudanese across the world have engaged in opposing views over the controversial plan to dredge the Bahr el Ghazal Basin by the Egyptians. This is after dredging machines were delivered to Unity state by Cairo.

A section of South Sudanese who support the dredging of the Naam river says it will help mitigate recurrent floods that have devasted much of Unity state. Another section of South Sudanese, however, argue that the dredging will destroy fishing activities and have lasting impact on the environment and the ecosystem in the wetlands.

In defense, senior government officials admitted that the deal to dredge the river was sanctioned by the Council of Ministers and that the activity will proceed as planned. But an online campaign, including recent public debates in opposing the matter has compelled the President to suspended the activity.

“I realized that this outcry from both sides came because we have not conducted an informed public consultation that addresses the concerns and the fears of those groups. These fears and concerns whether real or perceived can only be overcome through public consultation,’’ Kiir stated.

He added: “I am today freezing any planned dredging activities in the SUDD region until credible, professional evidence-based studies are carried out on the impact of dredging both on the surrounding communities and their ecosystems.”

The President further directed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to initiate the process of identifying and hiring credible experts who will carry out the feasibility study.

Last week, the Presidency established a committee to conduct public consultations on the controversial dredging of the Nile River and its tributaries.

The body headed by Akoc Akuei Manhiem will also carry out public awareness on the development and management of the Sudd and the White Nile water resources.

It was formed in response to public criticism and misgivings about the dredging of Naam river and the Nile following the arrival of dredging equipment from Egypt to Unity state in May.