August 7, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) today reiterated its position on the construction of the Jonglei canal saying its reservations on the project still stands.
- Jonglei Canal (USAID)
“Our reservations are centered around political, economic, social and environmental effects. We can overcome these issues with more understanding between the two sides,” the GoSS irrigation minister Joseph Dawyer told the London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat in an interview.
Dawyer said that the agreement on the canal was drafted by the central government and Egypt without a say for South Sudan on the issue adding that the project was one of the causes the outbreak of the civil war in 1983 between North and South Sudan.
The Jonglei Canal, started in 1980, is a hydro-construction project in Upper Nile Province of southern Sudan designed to alter the course of the White Nile as it passes through a swampy area in southern Sudan known as the Sudd.
According to Egyptian officials, the purpose of the canal was to ensure the flow of 4.7 billion cubic meters of water annually, to be equally distributed between Egypt and Sudan. However, the canal project was put to a halt in 1983 following the outbreak of the North-South civil war.
The irrigation minister said the projects needs a new “feasibility study” that should be carried out by his ministry.
He also denied knowledge of reports about an Egyptian delegation scheduled to visit Jonglei canal site. The Egyptian irrigation minister had announced that he established a committee to look into the possibility of renewing work on the canal saying it will develop surrounding areas through building new infrastructure and services to the locals.
Egypt is currently in a middle of row with Nile basin countries who are pressing to modify the 1929& 1959 agreements that grants it the lion’s share in the river water.
With almost 80 million people, Egypt’s water demands are projected to exceed its supply by 2017, according to a government reported published earlier this month.
Egyptian officials are worried about the upcoming referendum in 2011 for Southern Sudanese as a vote for secession it might further impact its share in the Nile waters.
A meeting of the nine Nile Basin countries held in Alexandria last week failed to reach an agreement on a new framework pact for water-sharing following intense lobbying from Egypt and Sudan.
Dawyer criticized the exclusion of South Sudan from the Alexandria conference with an observer status.