By Denis Morris

  • South Sudan faces a lack of water during the dry season and too much water during the wet season that sometimes causes flooding.
  • The South Sudanese government launched a national environmental policy in 2016 to protect and conserve the natural resources from overexploitation that leads to negative impact for people, animals and the ecosystem. 
  • The Juba Base environmentalist and the director of environment and natural resources at Sudd Institute in Juba, says plastic bags and battles are very harmful to the ecosystem and cause health problems to human beings.

Alier Bullen, the undersecretary in the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, says the ministry has not yet developed a master plan to conserve water resources in the country. 

The water resources are under a lot of threats – some are man-made and others natural threats.

Across South Sudan, heavy rainfall since April this year has caused extreme flooding, including in the Lakes region, which is still continuing up to November.

Due to this heavy rainfall, the volume of water has doubled especially in the eastern parts of Bahr el Jabal, White Nile, Sabbath, and Bahr el Ghazal regions, reducing the nutrients of the soil.

Climate change has increased both extremes. In 2018, South Sudan experienced low and unreliable rainfall, which led to a poor harvest and an increase in hunger in the Lakes region.

The country faces a lack of water during the dry season and too much water during the wet season that sometimes causes flooding.

Dr. Yath Wol, the Director of Planning in the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, SOUTH SUDAN

Dr. Yath says South Sudan does not have the capacity to store and control water in large dams, like other countries in the region.

“In South Sudan, our rain comes in a season and stops in a season, we have a dry season and rainy season. What affects us clearly and measurably is the rise and the fall of water levels. This year there has been excess rain, there have been measurement practices upstream. In Uganda, they own a dam which they open to let the excess water flow, which is the water that is flooding in the neighboring countries. When you are getting excess water you have to choose, to either store that water or let pass. As South Sudan government we are not able to store it because we don’t have dams”, said Alier Bullen.

“In the long run South Sudan might be greatly affected by disasters related to climate change and pollution. because large quantities of waste products such as plastic and polythene bags are being spilled into the waterways, polluting the water.

Juba has become a scrap yard for all vehicles and we don’t know what will come of it in the long run. some of these materials are very dangerous to the soil and find its way to the water. we are already seeing all this plastic finding its way blocking the waterways. even in the towns when the rain starts, the families trash their waste into the waterway and it takes to the river. Pollution is like a death people take out of their house to where it creates a big problem to all societies.”

Alier Bullen
Vehicles in traffic waiting for fuel in Sudan. Image by Roger Anis

Bullen says addressing the situation of water pollution in the country is very costly and it needs political will to allocate sufficient financial resources.

He says addressing water issues is not a priority to the country due to the reluctance from the government to allocate enough money to the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.

However, in recent years the ministry has been organizing International Water Days to create awareness on the roles of citizens in water management.

The Juba base Yang Tiik Mamer environmentalist and the director of Environment and Natural Resources at Sudd Institute in Juba, says plastic bags and battles are very harmful to the ecosystem and cause health problems to human beings.

Animals are dying from the plastic bags, especially when they are dumped into the farming grounds, which also results in a poor harvests. The bags are also contributing to the decline of fish in water bodies, he says.

Tiik Mamer, environmentalist

“All the polythene are very dangerous to the environment, water and living things in the water and to the people and livestock or wildlife they depend on water, for example, plastic is not dissolving dawn in water it stays for a long time and it is very toxic substance it causes cancer and other illnesses. In water it kills fish. these bags destroy the productivities of the environment; the land cannot be productive anymore because there is no nutrient anymore only chemicals that are distractive to human life,” Mamer added.

Agriculture land flooded by water in SHuqaylab Al Khour village. By Roger Anis

Mamer says many people are ignorant about the negative effects of plastic bags on the environment and water resources.

He added that the Ministry of Environment should do more to create awareness on the danger of plastic bags and how plastic should be maintained.

“Plastic bags can be recycled. In South Sudan, plastic bags are burnt. People are not aware of the danger and how plastic bags are supposed to be used because the government has never created awareness. We don’t have land fixed that is set for dumping the waste, anybody can dump waste anywhere anytime.”

Plastic bottles and bags constitute 90 percent of the waste products that are found in major towns in South Sudan, and there is no plan to recycle or to switch to another eco-friendly product. In 2018 the government issued a ministerial order banning the use of single plastic bags, but it failed because there were a lot of smugglers. 

These single plastic bags and bottles are dumped into the small streams because of a lack of standards at official dumping sites. Rain then carries the waste to the river, which flows into the Sudd, causing a bigger problem to the huge diversity of animals and plants that live in this wetland.

Recently the government announced a $5 million project financed by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that will help in developing a sustainable waste management system in Juba.

This story was first aired on 99.3 SAMA FM. This story was produced in partnership with InfoNile and Code for Africa with support from the Pulitzer Center and National Geographic Society; edited by Annika McGinnis.

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Water Journalists Africa (WJA) is the largest network of journalists reporting on water in the African continent. It brings together some 700 journalists from 50 African countries. It was established in...

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