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Impact of the construction of the Juba-Bor-Malakal highway on S. Sudan’s Eden of Biodiversity(Wildlife)

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South Sudan boasts Africa’s biggest wetland, the Sudd, and its largest intact savanna, a stretch of untouched wilderness east of the White Nile that reaches all the way to Ethiopia.

Every year, some 1.2 million antelopes and gazelles cross this enormous ecosystem—at 95,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles), it is the size of Hungary. Many endangered species survived—against the odds—decades of war and near-decimation by poachers 

Ruinous civil wars have left South Sudan with few paved roads or airstrips. It is the size of France but huge swathes are isolated or impenetrable. These are some of the least-explored, and most remarkable, wild habitats in Africa.

But with the recent developments, the ongoing construction work on South Sudan’s Juba – Bor Highway by Africa Resource Corporation, an indigenous company which is a solution to a major problem in South Sudan, but at the same time it very important and paramount to have a good look at the design that will mitigate against the negative impact of the road construction.

According to the engineers in charge of the construction, he said they have ensured the design and foundation of the road are formidable against all weather.

The African Resource Cooperation Company says they are also building durable box culverts that will protect the new Juba-Bor Highway from heavy rains and floods for generations to come. But did the construction of the road take into account the migratory routes( the geographic route along which animal customarily migrate.)?

According to the presentation workshop of the design and ESIA and feasibility studies by ARC about two weeks ago, the ESIA report was very inadequate. It fails to identify sensitive ecological and social spots such as protected areas like the Sudd wetlands, Bandingilo National Parks, and Boma National Park whose migration routes are being crossed by the road.

It also fails to identify livestock crossing corridors. Mitigation measures are also not incorporated. For example, there is no incorporation of safe crossing corridors into the design. There is also no incorporation of the fence on both sides of the road in park areas and migration routes to guide the wildlife to the safe crossing corridors and no incorporation of the same for livestock.

The ESIA also did not follow best practices such as screening and scoping processes and it was not submitted for review and approval by the competent concerned authority responsible for environmental matters. And according to what NCMP learned, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry was not notified of the ESIA and learned about this after the construction has already started.

Though it was noted that the ARC team was receptive when the issues of these gaps were raised and had promised to address them including submitting these documents for review by the concerned authorities.

The admirers of the wildlife in South Sudan clings to hope that conservation will one day “help in bringing development” to the remote corner of South Sudan, where lions growl in the darkness.

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