According to South Sudan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Deng Dau, the country aims to build a huge dam along the Nile River to supply affordable, reliable electricity and help avert deadly floods.
JUBA – According to South Sudan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, the country wants to realize a nearly decade-long dream of building a huge dam along the Nile River in order to supply inexpensive, consistent electricity and help avert deadly floods.
Flooding, a lack of power, water scarcity, and inadequate infrastructure hamper the world’s youngest country, but the initiative is part of the oil-revenue-funded government’s strategy to address its numerous problems, the minister said in Juba ahead of the country’s 10th anniversary of independence.
“This is a country-wide strategic plan; the government is planning to build a dam to generate electricity and power because you can’t have a country without industrialisation,” said Deng Dau Deng Malek, speaking from his office in the heart of the South Sudanese capital.
“Take a look at the country today; the majority of South Sudan is currently flooded. The state of Upper Nile is flooded. As a country, we were not given the opportunity to think and plan. You look at the population’s requirements and the rising industries,” he explained.
Mr Malek, who was appointed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit in 2018, said the Irrigation Ministry has been asked to begin preliminary research to aid in the development of plans, including the height of the dam, the size of the reservoir behind it, and the number of turbines it can power.
“When we build the dam, we will consider the environmental impact as well as the hydrological component. You can’t do it overnight if you consider its long-term viability and the surrounding community. You also foresee any complications that may arise,” he added.
South Sudan became a country ten years ago after a vote, with unrestricted goals – including the construction of massive hydroelectric dams – but plummeted into civil conflict two years later.
The battle not only killed approximately 400,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million, but it also put a stop to projects like dam construction and slowed or halted other water and irrigation rebuilding efforts. The warring parties signed a peace agreement in 2018 and now claim to be focused on rebuilding the country.
“We’ve been at war for a long time. There has been fighting since 2013, and we have only now signed a peace accord. We’re attempting to reform and see how the country can move forward,” he explained.
According to water experts, the dam project was also delayed due to an unrealistic scope and insufficient early planning.
South Sudan is bordered on the east by Ethiopia, and on the north by Sudan and Egypt.
The White Nile, one of the two main tributaries feeding the Nile River, travels across the country, meeting and mixing with the Blue Nile, which flows from the Ethiopian highlands near Khartoum.
Seasonal rains fall over South Sudan’s ten states for at least seven months of the year, generating tremendous water cascades into the White Nile while also bringing devastating flooding.
Ethiopia’s $5 billion Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, Africa’s largest hydropower project, has strained relations with downstream neighbors Sudan and Egypt.
Mr Malek mirrored his counterparts in Addis Ababa when asked if South Sudan’s projected dam would cause problems with Sudan and Egypt, adding that it was their prerogative to utilise the water supply.
Mr Malek advocated cooperation and conversation in response to the deadlock between Ethiopia and its downstream neighbors over the massive dam project.
“The Nile water should not be viewed as a curse, but rather as a peaceful, God-given resource for the region. As a government, we encourage Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia to debate and dialogue more effectively in order to find acceptable answers. To accommodate what Ethiopia wishes to do with future generations while also accommodating Sudanese and Egyptian fears.”
While Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has stated that his country will take whatever necessary steps to preserve its national security, he has also appealed for calm in the face of threats of military action against Ethiopia if the dam is not filled without a long-term accord.
Military solutions, according to Mr Malek, should never be used.
“Any supply of water can be a problem for most of these countries,” he said, adding that “we don’t promote a military solution to the dilemma – this shouldn’t be the answer.”
Officials downstream may be alarmed by Juba’s ambitions to assume control of the gates of another Nile River dam.