By David Lawrence Lual
OPINION – For the last few weeks, South Sudanese in-and-out the country took to the social media to engage in a discussion on a very substantial issue of public concern, the “”DREDGING OF BAHR-EL-GHAZAL/NAM RIVERS””.
It is not the first time for the South Sudanese to engage in such discussions. Issues of similar nature had been discussed before such as the issue of NUMBER OF STATES, DEVALUATION OF CURRENCY, and etc.
The engagement of the people in the discussions of public matters shows that they are politically, socially and economically conscious. However, the problem comes in the way some people especially the supposedly elites perceive and interpret these public matters, diverting their real intends thus misleading the public. The confused and deluded public would then turn the debate into verbal confrontations which if not controlled, may outburst into violence and subsequently divide the people on ethnic and regional lines.
This piece tends to highlights some misconceptions and wrong interpretation about DREDGING of River Nile tributaries between Anti-Dredging and Pro-Dredging camps. It serves to correct and make some clarifications on these fallacies and bring back the public to focus on the main course of the debate.
WHAT IS DREDGING?
Though there are many definitions from various literatures for the term dredging; they all lead to one common concept, removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of water bodies (Rivers, Lakes, and Seas etc).
This removal mainly involves carrying out excavation, of either naturally deposited sediments or man-made debris such as (rocks, bottom sediments, wrecked ships or boats, construction debris, and plant or animal matter) on the bottom of either shallow seawater or freshwaters.
Although dredging has advantages and disadvantages, here I will not go into the details because most of it had already been shared with the public especially during the public consultations and awareness. On the weighing scale the disadvantages are more and then advantages.
One good advantage of dredging is the facilitation of the river and sea navigation.
On the other hand, the disadvantages are many and are all centred around the negative impacts on the environment.
For instance, when you do the excavation, it must include deepening and widen of the rivers. This increases the speed of water flow thus reducing the evaporation rates affecting the water cycle by decreasing the amount of rainfall in a given region and consequently leading to drought and famine. Recurrent droughts due to lack of rain affects the people’s livelihood activities of such as agricultural crop production and livestock rearing due pastures and water scarcity which will definitely threatens their survival.
WHAT BROUGHT THE CONFUSION?
In spite of science being clear on the matter, It is sad and unfortunate that some people decided to take the matter of the debate on DREDGING totally out of context either deliberately or ignorantly for personal or political motives. They even took it to another level which became personal and subsequently turned into enmity between the two camps (the proponents and the opponents).
This debate though being as sensitive as it is, due to the fact of its nature as a matter of public concern should have not gone beyond the scope of just expression of opinions.
But going to the extent of attacking people’s personalities; calling them bad names, belittling and masquerading their national efforts and contributions, blackmailing and accusing them of treachery, that was really absurd, unethical and Uncalled-for.
South Sudanese should know that, a debate is just a kind of brainstorming and an intellectual nourishment exercise and intended to reach common understanding and goals.
It entails constructive exchange of views and disputation of an opposite idea based on the logical justification in a mannerly approach.
Just like all humans, we are diverse in shape, contents and thoughts. We do not necessarily have to agree in one thing at a time but we can discuss till we reach consensus. Having varied views as the people of South Sudan is normal and important for the progress and development of our nation. We all love our country and that’s why we candidaly discuss or differ in ideas regarding public issues. We are all South Sudanese and will remain so regardless of our current or past positions on any burning issue. No one should be considered an enemy of the other just because of differences in opinion.
MY OPINION ON THE PROCESS OF DREDGING
I am personally against the idea of dredging of the river Nile and its tributaries not because of any personal interest or motives. Though I do fully I acknowledge the fact that our people in Bentiu or any other part of the country (i.e Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, Lakes and Aweil) are really suffering and affected by floods and are as such in dire need for an instant humanitarian intervention to save their lives from this catastrophic disaster.
I am equally bothered and concerned about possible future environmental degradation or damages as a result of this intended unstudied dredging. We do not want our rivers to be dredged and later in the long run turn into irreversible hazardous consequences such as droughts and other negative environmental impacts.
Though I do not agree with those calling for dredging as a solution for saving the lives of the people affected by floods, I do respect their opinion because I know they are desperate due to the devastating situation caused by that disaster.
Floods are a global phenomenon that occurs due to global climate change just like droughts or famine.
I believe that dredging is not the only solution to this disaster, we have heard from various experts suggesting other means less harmful to the environment as best solution for floods mitigation. It would be better for us to adapt solutions that ensure a life-saving and environmental win-win situation. Solutions that help the floods affected areas and as well conserve and protect our environment.
In this regard I must reiterate my position on the matter that we need to think critically of the consequences that would follow thereafter should people insist and the dredging take place. As we are thinking of the affected population currently, let’s also think of the generations to come.
The Advantages and disadvantages of dredging must be thoroughly analyzed and the evidence-based scientific recommendations shall be the basis of any decision to reject or accept the project.
I appeal to all the people of South Sudan to continue with the debate but let’s give ourselves space to discuss the matter in good spirit far from affront and zeal that encourage confrontations.
Let’s give science the space to lead and be the deciding force in this contentious debate.
Let’s be objective in our reasoning and let’s feed our public with facts not imaginations.
Let’s embrace dialogue which applies logical approaches rather than emotions as ways to convince your brother with an opposite view. After all, no absolute truth and no one have despotic rights over others. We are all bonded to the principles of freedom of speech and thoughts.
The author is a concerned citizen and former acting director of rangelands management and livestock water development at the ministry of livestock and fisheries industries. He can be reached via: email@example.com or WhatsApp +211929999956.
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