Historically, the Jonglei Project has been proposed since the British occupation of Egypt and Sudan in the 19th century in order to change the course of the White Nile, to bypass the dams area and to solve the problem of water loss from it.
Cairo – “Let’s allow this water to flow to those who need it in Egypt.” With these words, Taban Deng, Vice President of South Sudan for Infrastructure, called for the resumption of work on the “Jonglei” canal located in his country, according to statements carried by the local press in South Sudan.
The Jonglei Canal is a water project based on the White Nile, the second tributary of the Nile. Work began on it decades ago and about 70% of it was implemented, before it stopped following the civil war in Sudan (1983-2005) that led to the independence of the south in 2011.
The canal project aimed to divert the course of the White Nile away from the vast swampy area, which represents an important water source in southern Sudan, in addition to providing tens of thousands of arable acres, and when completed, it can provide at least 10 billion cubic meters of water annually, according to specialists.
This is the first time that a senior government official in Juba has called for the resumption of the project, and this coincides with the statements of current and former officials in Cairo and Khartoum on the same matter, which raised questions about the significance of this in light of its coincidence with the faltering negotiations of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the announcement of Addis Ababa before the days of operation. The partial dam, and what is being raised about its initiation of the third filling of the dam lake.
In recent years, with the dam file worsening, Cairo has sought non-traditional alternatives to solve the water problem. In addition to thinking about reviving the Jonglei Canal, it has proposed a project to link the Congo River to the Nile River, but these ideas are still far from reality and some of them are fading and then re-marketed from time to time. .
Developments and telecommunication patterns
The Juba government – when it was an armed movement – had previously halted the project by targeting the giant French dredger rented by Cairo and Khartoum to dig the canal, and senior officials in South Sudan recently called for the revival of the project, including Taban Deng, who was considered one of the political and military influencers in his country before the separation. for the North and beyond.
Previously, the leader of the separatist movement of South Sudan and the historical leader of the south, John Garang, received his doctorate with a thesis on the negative effects of the canal project on the traditional people of Jonglei State.
Since Juba’s independence, South Sudanese officials have confirmed on more than one occasion that their country is studying the effects of the canal and its ability to reduce flood risks. Deng’s statements came expressing the local need for the project. To ease the floods in the swampy area, by passing it through the canal to Sudan and Egypt.
Which is evident in his assertion that “the solution lies in opening the waterways and resuming the drilling of the Jonglei Canal, based on the conditions and interest of South Sudan in the first place,” calling for “allowing this water to flow to those who need it in Egypt.”
This shift towards the canal project file is reinforced by a UN report that indicated that more than 380,000 people were affected by the floods in 6 states, Jonglei was the most affected.
Deng’s statements coincided with what he said earlier this month, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Vice-President of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, that he discussed with the Director of Egyptian Intelligence Abbas Kamel the issue of the Renaissance Dam and the Jonglei Canal project, noting that the project will witness a step forward in the coming days.
— Sada El Balad 🇪🇬 (@ElBaladOfficial) September 6, 2020
- Historically, the Jonglei Project has been proposed since the British occupation of Egypt and Sudan in the 19th century in order to change the course of the White Nile, to bypass the dams area and to solve the problem of water loss from it.
- The study of the scheme of the project began for the first time in the middle of the last century. It is one of the projects of “increasing the Nile’s revenue” under the umbrella of the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan to divide the Nile’s waters, according to which Egypt would receive 55.5 billion cubic meters and Sudan 18.5 billion.
- Excavation work began in the late 1970s, when a French company was able to drill 260 km of the 360 km length of the canal before it was stopped in 1983 with the outbreak of the civil war.
- The canal project was a target of the separatists and one of the reasons for the outbreak of the civil war, and Jonglei was a starting point for the rebels against the Khartoum government.
- By 2011, South Sudan became independent, which ended Khartoum’s role in the project, then Egypt tried to negotiate with Juba to resume work on the canal without a breakthrough so far.
Benefits and Concerns
The main benefits of the project, as mentioned by many researchers, can be summarized as follows:
- Save large amounts of water lost due to evaporation.
- Reducing the risks of regular floods, and reducing the spread of disease vectors.
- Providing a navigation link, promoting trade and providing job opportunities for local residents.
On the other hand, there are negative repercussions and other concerns, including:
- The project may reduce the size of the swamps and negatively affect grazing activities.
- The canal can become a barrier between villages, impeding animal migration paths.
- May affect the hydrological system and reduce rainfall in the area; Which affects water quality and sediment transport.
Safety and Mutual Benefit
In response to a question about Jonglei’s ability to compensate for the losses of the Blue Nile affected by the Renaissance Dam, the former Egyptian Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Nasr Allam said that the canal, after its completion with its full capacity, will provide at least 10 billion cubic meters annually.
In statements to Al Jazeera Net, Allam explained that the first phase of it will provide at least 4 billion cubic meters measured at Aswan Governorate (southern Egypt) and equivalent to about 5 billion or a little more at the canal.
Regarding the importance of the project, he stressed that it is not a source of water for sharing between the Nile Basin countries, but rather a way to move the waters of stagnant ponds and swamps in Jonglei to pass it to the White Nile, instead of losing it by evaporation in swamps and the spread of pollution and diseases.
According to the 1959 agreement, according to Allam, this water will be divided equally between Egypt and Sudan, and in the future the canal can be expanded or a parallel canal established to provide the rest of the estimated quantity of 10 billion cubic meters.
The former minister added that this amount does not exceed about 50% of the losses, and the rest will be left to preserve the environmental features of the region and natural pastures.
Regarding how the Jonglei project is invested in calming the crises of the Nile Basin countries, Allam explained, “We are not talking about a share of water for Ethiopia to be exploited in the Renaissance Dam, but we are talking about that Jonglei represents a safety valve for the Egyptian-Sudanese water security in cases of effective drought or when errors occur in the operation of the dam or for any other reason so that there are no famines in either country.
Allam added that if Ethiopia needs some Nile water as necessary, and after the approval of Egypt and Sudan, it is possible to dig a similar channel in the swamps of “Machar” between Ethiopia and South Sudan to provide about 4 to 5 billion cubic meters of losses for the benefit of the three countries.
He stressed that it is natural to exploit such projects to enhance cooperation between the four countries (Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia) for their collective interest, and to establish agricultural, industrial and commercial projects that benefit their residents, with the importance of having the political desire for development and cooperation.
Allam called for an urgent meeting to study how to implement and exploit Jonglei to help Juba and overcome the problems of water negotiations between the three countries of the Blue Nile Basin.