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South Sudan vows to improve water system in Juba

By Ngor Arol Garang

August 31, 2011 (JUBA) - The government of the newly established state of South Sudan on Wednesday pledged its commitment to improve both water and electricity systems in its national and state capitals.

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FILE - A newly arrived southern Sudanese child returnee from Darfur drinks water from a bowl shortly after being dropped off from a bus in Wanjok, near Aweil in Northern Bhar El-Ghazal January 16, 2011 (Reuters)

Juba, South Sudan’s capital, is inhabited by close to two million people. The growing pains of urbanisation are evident. Roads are clogged with traffic and in its sprawling neighborhoods less than 60% of the capital’s residents have access to safe water. Only about one-third have drinking water piped into their homes and many get only an intermittent supply.

While walking around the streets of Juba, Sudan Tribune observed that many households buy water for flushing toilets and washing from private tankers, and drinking water from private suppliers, predominantly controlled by foreign businessmen.

Those with no room to store water, mainly the poor, pay more for it according to civil society activist Alfred Sebit Duku, who specialises in social development and water-related projects.

“It’s very expensive to buy [water] this way, one day at a time,” said Duku who works as a consultant at the national ministry of Irrigation and Water resources.

"Water flow into residential areas is a big challenge. In Juba, water supply simply doesn’t meet demand. You can still improve a lot of things in order to have better distribution of water”, adds Barnaba Wol Makuac, a hygiene, water and sanitation officer.

In August, South Sudan’s council of ministers passed a resolution approving five million South Sudan Pounds ($1.8m) to the Juba city council to upgrade the capital city of the world’s newest and Africa’s 54th nation.

The city council is also getting support from the World Bank and other donors to help the new country reduce poverty and modernise after decades of civil war.

The Juba water deficit, among other factors, has led the government to estimate it will need to invest about 1.2 billion South Sudan Pounds ($45m) a year over five years on infrastructure, to help the country develop an appropriate level of services.

“The issue of clean drinking water remains one of the priorities of the ministry as part [of the] development plan of the government of South Sudan. So far, we have drawn up plans to address this. It is something in the pipeline as priorities for this year”, Paul Mayom Akec, a minister of irrigation and water resources told journalists on Wednesday.

Minister Akec further added that South Sudan’s government plans to double the capacity of the water treatment plants in the capital to deliver an extra 60 million gallons of water a day to the Juba area.

As part of the international assistance to war damaged country, the World Bank and other partners in collaboration with the Joint Multi Donor Trust Fund and American International Development Agency, have been working with the South Sudan government on a ’Safe Water’ project.

The project hopes to increase access to safe water and improved sanitation such as toilets, sewage and septic systems, and latrines, in rural and urban areas.

(ST)