A South Sudanese lawyer is suing the South Sudan government in the East African Court of Justice over a plan to dredge the Naam River in Unity state. South Sudan and Egypt reportedly have jointly agreed to dredge the river to provide more water flow to Egypt.
“There were no assessments done in terms of environmental impacts and public consultations," Charles Cholong told South Sudan in Focus, adding "The government didn’t give the public a chance to give their opinion regarding this project. We are not against government projects, but we need to assess the impacts,”
Cholong asserts that dredging the tributaries of the Nile and the Sudd Wetlands will cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem and cause untold citizens to lose their livelihoods.
“The East African Court of Justice should grant us an interim order to suspend the activity. This is the main demand and the second demand is to order the government to provide us with the document of the agreement because we have not seen the agreement,” Cholong told VOA.
Last week, Unity state minister for physical infrastructure, lands, and housing Lam Tungwar confirmed machinery including an excavator arrived in Unity from Egypt to dredge the Naam.
Tunwar asserts the project was approved by the national ministry of irrigation and water resources, but National Minister for Environment and Forestry Josephine Napwon said it must first receive approval from the government.
“We are here to protect the environment and anything that endangers our environment, we will not accept as a ministry,” Napwon told VOA.
Although the president's office denies knowing who ordered the dredging equipment, the ministry of water resources and irrigation maintains that Egypt and South Sudan reached a deal on the project during a meeting in Cairo last year.
South Sudan information minister Michael Makuei questioned the legitimacy of Cholong’s lawsuit.
“Did the people of South Sudan authorize him to appear on their behalf? If he is a concerned citizen, why should he not take it to the courts of South Sudan,” Makuei told South Sudan in Focus.
Reaction among South Sudanese to dredging rivers and tributaries is mixed.
Ajak John Ateng, President of the Geological Society of South Sudan believes the project could control flooding.
“These areas are experiencing continuous flooding so the only solution is to construct dykes, Ateng told VOA.
Juba resident Abraham Akot told South Sudan in Focus people would rather endure floods than see the Jonglei Canal dredged.
"Floods come with food like fish, so they will not lack what to eat when there are floods. If water is there it comes with some sources of livelihoods for the people.”