While the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the dam of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam raged, Ethiopia lobbied other Nile Basin countries to find alternative ways to maintain the flow of water flowing down the Aswan High Dam.
The alternative was found in South Sudan. It turns out that amid the dam controversy, Egypt and South Sudan signed a “secret” deal to dredging Nile tributaries in Unity state to divert 4.8 million cubic meters of water annually downstream to Sudan and Egypt, an increase of about five to seven percent of the current volume of the latter.
A divided government
The issue has divided the Juba government. The deal recently came to light when the late South Sudanese Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, revealed that Cairo and Juba signed an agreement in April last year that would see Egypt dredging the 30km section of the Bahr el Ghazal river system said to be from Bentiu, the capital of the state of Unity.
Dr. James Wani Igga, vice president of the economic cluster, had led the government team to Egypt, according to Mr Gatkuoth.
The canal project involves the construction of water cadre at Egyptian facilities, dredging and weed control in the Bahr el Ghazal basin, and the creation of Landing pads along the canal.
Solar systems are installed on boreholes drilled to provide clean drinking water.
When a convoy of 21 trucks arrived from Egypt via Khartoum in South Sudan, many rose up against it project, arguing it would affect South Sudan’s ecological balance and leave Sudan vulnerable to flooding.
Among those opposed to the dredging is th Environment and Forestry Minister Josephine Napwon, who promoted the project illegal in the absence of a proper environmental assessment and notification from the Department of Water Resources and Irrigation.
The controversy rse has extended to East Africa in court, where Elario Adam and Athiangbiar Deng say it is environmentally unsustainable and will affect protected areas in East Africa.
“The main reason for this motion is to challenge the legality of dredging along.” the Naam River Nile in Unity State and the Bahr El Ghazal Basin. According to East African laws, an environmental impact assessment must be carried out before this type of project,” Mr Adam said.
But despite the environmental concerns, former director of water resources in Kenya, John Nyaoro, says Egypt would get up to 10 billion Cubic meters would be gained if the tributaries were drained.
“While the water leaving Lake Victoria through the White Nile is 40 billion cubic meters, only 20 billion arrives in Khartoum, where it joins the Blue Nile of Ethiopia. Opening the swamp channels to allow rapid water flow would solve the problem of stagnation leading to evaporative losses,” said Mr. Nyaoro.
This story was first published in The EastAfrican released in print on Saturday, June 25, 2022.