By Philip Ayuen Dot, Juba, South Sudan
Jonglei state is among other states in the country that has been greatly hit by the floods. The state is covered by the water and even the sandy areas which rarely get flooded have been reached. For instance, Malualchaat, Total/Malualagoorbaar, Malek, Panpandiar, Goi, Pariak, Yolthar and Anuet are partly flooded. Since July over 856,000 people have been affected by the floods and it is still unpredictable when it will come to an end. The communities living in the areas along White Nile are migrating to the higher areas to escape the speeding waters. It is estimated that about 400,000 people have been displaced; the mostly affected populous, are women, seniors and children. It is also estimated that nearly 380 schools have been affected by the flood and schools are turned into camping grounds for the IDPs.
This is not the first time that counties like Bor, Duk and Twic East find themselves in this critical time. It is a natural calamity that comes at any unexpected time and migrations to safer places are unavoidable. The floods are becoming natural disasters in South Sudan and the government is not giving attention regardless of the frequency of occurrences. The overflow of the waters is ever forcing people to run for their lives, whereby schools are turned into displaced persons’ camps and making the learning process to go on halt. The detrimental effects of the flood include food shortage, damaging shelters, destruction of crops, animals; diseases and end up in creating vulnerability to seek aids for settlements in safer places. The flood becomes a real pandemic and life threatening to the people, animals and so on.
Can a state or country progress if their people are forever running away to avoid natural calamities such as floods? With climate change on our doorstep, we can be rest assured that White Nile shall be breaking its banks. On the other hand, torrential rainfall always hits the citizens. The lingering questions in our minds are their long-term solutions for this menace? Is there a way to keep the people of Jonglei State in their homes at rainy seasons?
The answer is always ‘Yes’. If there are funds to finance the projects that are designated for the control of flood, then there is hope that flood can be successfully handled. Secondly, it needs commitment as well as unity among us to make things work for us. There is nothing that can defeat combined forces working for the great cause of saving lives. We are all aware that flood caused the people to move away from their homes and seek better places for camping, which led to the deceased in human population. In striving to avoid human losses and the constant disruptions, the land remains empty. Back in 2013, Bor City was faced with the same predicament we are still experiencing today today. Floods had devastated the city and surrounding settlements. The Honourable Mayor Dr. Mach by then, did his part and the issue could not be solved permanently and that is why we are still in it again. Though it was not completely prevented, the dykes played a significant role in certain areas that are used for offices today. The Dykes, which are 17km long, are still serving their purposes though the flood is beyond control. The dykes which served the city until recently were broken down and it was a sign that the pressure of the waters is high. It is recommendable that the government of Jonglei State, Community’s leaderships and local residences need to join hands together to solve this problem once and for all. It is a matter of right leadership, cooperation and funding, and we will never talk of the floods again in our beloved state.
To begin with, there is a need of constructing dams outside the city of Bor in order to drain off excess waters. Through other countries like Egypt, Uganda and so forth, the dams have proven to be reliable water reservoirs collecting excess water during the rainy season and minimize the flow of water. Also, the conserved water, is directed to domestic uses like generation of power for electricity, pond farm fishing and irrigation of crops at dry seasons.
We, the South Sudan Environmental Advocates (SSEA) together with our partner CLENA SUSTAINABLE FUTURE, would like to recommend the construction of dams. We tend to recommend the following areas to be assessed by the government and other concerned agencies in jonglei state: Ayod county, Duk Padiet and poktap to have dams, Twic East to have 2 dams, Abui in Anyidi, Ngongdit in Abii, at the back of Ayiicrou Cattle Camp in Gwalla, Ang’on in Deer or somewhere behind Makuach centre towards the East. We know that both Ngongdit and Abui are already man-made lakes and only expansion needed to make dams. Also, the tunnels to be dug towards those areas. These are mere proposals, and we have to explore a few, if not all. The dams will help to regulate the water flow and we may change the situation in Bor. In addition, the waters from the river need to be prevented by erecting permanent walls along the low-lying areas in the city. The bigger problem may be reduced into a minor problem if given attention with full funding.
It is important that we take this issue of finding long term solutions to the flooding problem urgently. Regardless of how young our nation is, there is a need of spotting the trained engineers to make this comes to control. The educated population needs to help in building the nation through their professionalism. But constant flooding always means that schools remain closed as people are housed there. This is not only harming the current generation, but also the future generations. Children need to have an undisrupted school life to be able to do well, as well as, learning new skills.
Because of the economic costs of flood, the country is losing more money through the disruption of people from their farms, livestock and other ways of earning a living, each time there are floods. It will cost less money to build dams, dykes and maintain them, then the amount of money used to cater for the needs of people affected by floods year in year out.
Furthermore, added benefits of dams include generating electricity. This is clean energy that can be harnessed to provide the state with the much-needed reliable electricity that can spur the state’s growth. On top of enabling factories and companies to operate in the area, electricity can also be used by schools, hospitals and homes.
Floods, not just in Jonglei state, but in the country in general are becoming a common occurrence that we should plan early in advance for. This means having early warning systems in place that can predict when the rainfalls are coming and with what intensity and for how long. This will assist both the government and the citizens to adequately prepare for them.
The other thing that needs to be done is to put in place are flood management methods. This includes the dams we are talking about, diversion canals, embankments, weirs, river defense, floodplains and ground water replenishment, planting trees alongside rivers and temporary perimeter barriers such as sandbags. Moreover, building flood resilience is also necessary. This includes ensuring that buildings and other infrastructure such as roads and airports are built in such a way that even if floods occur, they are not carried away or badly damaged, making it easy for people to bounce back after floods. It also means preparing the people on what to do to prepare for floods.
It is thus our request as South Sudan environmental advocates (SSEA), that any willing partner out there that would be willing to solve this menace one and for all in Jonglei state, partners with us. We provide environmental consultancy for projects; we can also carry out the projects themselves when funds are availed and provide services such as Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for the displaced populations. We look forward to partnering with like-minded individuals to stop the cycle of flood damage.