Environmental Sustainability for Development in South Sudan

By Jacob K. Lupai


February 29, 2012 (SSNA) — In his address to the First Joint Sitting of the National Legislature and to the Nation on the 8th August 2011 the President of Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, said that we have got more daunting tasks in front of us. He said the Republic of South Sudan should never depend on imports of food or handouts because we are endowed with fertile land. The President went on to say that we can only achieve our ambitious development goals if all of us dedicate ourselves to develop our country and pull together with unity of purpose.

For sustainable development in South Sudan the President has earnestly set the ball rolling. It is now for technocrats to translate what the President has declared into tangible outcomes on the ground for a high standard of living of the people in South Sudan. Realisation of sustainable development is the achievement of environmental, food and social security which are interrelated. In brief food security can be defined as access to safe and sufficient food for all while social security is politico-economic security, social justice and conflict resolution. Factors affecting environmental sustainability are varied of which climate change is one of the main factors.

Climate change

On climate change, the late Dr Wangari Muta Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner said, “Africa is the continent that will be hit hardest by climate change. Unpredictable rains and floods, prolonged droughts, subsequent crop failures and rapid desertification, among other signs of global warming, have in fact already begun to change the face of Africa”.

The former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in his opening address at the Global Humanitarian Forum, 2007 said, “So finally today, there is an understanding that climate change is very real, it is happening now. We can no longer consider it a threat that is yet to hit us; all over the world we see its impact”.

The ordinary people in South Sudan may not know what climate change is. Well, climate change is fluctuation in weather patterns over a long term and affects livelihoods. For example, climate change induces drought and flooding. A trend of decreasing annual rainfall and increased rainfall variability contributes to drought conditions that affect agricultural production in achieving food security. Floods are also experienced with widespread loss of property and damage to crop lands where livelihoods are affected in which the poor in low income countries are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts because they have the lowest capacity to adapt. This suggests that it is essential to implement programmes that reduce poverty to give people capacity.

Environmental degradation

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This can be realized through environmental sustainability. However, more often poor management leads to environmental degradation hence unsustainable development. Vegetative growth is one of nature’s mechanisms of controlling soil erosion. Nonetheless the majority of people in South Sudan use wood as charcoal for cooking and when it is cold for heating. Wood for cooking purposes and construction is being collected faster that it can regrow to control soil erosion. Moreover where there is poor management of soils this leads to environmental degradation. The challenge facing South Sudan today is no longer deciding whether forestry conservation is a good idea, but rather how it can be implemented immediately and efficiently for environmental sustainability to realize development.

Adaptation strategies

It is important to actively seek adaptation strategies to climate change for sustainable development. The main focus is poverty reduction and the strategies are afforestation, and agricultural and water resources development. Deforestation is a serious problem that encourages the spread of deserts which render the soil unsuitable for cultivation in achieving food security without investment in irrigation. Huge quantities of fertile soil are stripped from the land each year as a result of deforestation and poor land management. However, desert conditions can be avoided by regulating the felling of trees and also by the use of hardy, drought-resistant deep-rooting tree seedlings capable of tapping any groundwater resources that may be available. Also agroforestry system can be used. An agroforestry system comprises carefully worked out combinations of mutually beneficial species and so agroforestry is a profound ecological technique.

Water harvesting is one strategy in sustainable development. It will increase community access to reliable supply of water, increase their capacity to cope with impacts of reduced precipitation, and increased temperature and drought. South Sudan has numerous permanent water sources with the main one being the White Nile. In addition, there are other sources of water such as seasonal rainfall, seasonal streams and scattered lakes and ponds fed by rainwater. However, despite the fact that South Sudan has sources of water in abundance, humans and animals have limited access to water partly due to the lack of infrastructures. People also lack skills in water harvesting. Through training of technicians it is possible to build reservoirs to harvest water from seasonal streams and flush water during the rainy season for domestic use and sustainable cultivation of crops and livestock production for food security. The collection and storage of rainwater has been practised by people since ancient times. Water harvesting as a strategy to mitigate the impact of climate change is therefore appropriate to improve production for the achievement of food security in South Sudan.

Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all opportunities to satisfy their aspirations for a better life. It is therefore fair to assert that the environment that sustains development is a prerequisite. Every effort should therefore be made to mitigate environmental degradation for sustainable development in South Sudan. This can be realized through the formulation of projects for afforestation and water harvesting.

Environmental pollution

Juba the capital of the Republic of South Sudan and also of Central Equatoria State does not have a central collection and treatment system of sewage. In residential areas raw sewage is pumped from septic tanks into privately operated tankers which ferry and dump the raw sewage on grounds erroneously considered of safe distance from human habitations. Apart from the unbearable odour of the raw sewage to passers-by the environmental pollution caused is offensive. In the rainy season the dumped raw sewage pollutes the surrounding areas where humans may live notwithstanding the raw sewage polluting drinking water. This obviously poses a serious threat to public health with the resultant high cost for treating the sick. Another cause of environmental pollution are plastic bags and bottles, and cans for fizzy drinks strewn everywhere with a very unreliable collection system if any. Even if such pollutants are collected it is not clear where they are dumped. There are hardly any collection points for recycle items advertised for people to deposit such items. The vehicles that are supposed to collect garbage from residential areas are few and far in between. Some move very fast that they hardly collect the garbage as expected. An example is that in Hai Jallaba the Green Vehicles supposed to be of the City Council are hardly seen. However, when one appears the driver and the garbage collectors are always in hurry and so unable to collect the existing piled up garbage. Environmental pollution is real in South Sudan and something must be done to avoid environmental degradation that may impede sustainable development.

As a mitigation of environmental degradation, consideration for investment in garbage bins is a solution. Each household should have a bin or two into which the garbage is put. The Green Vehicles that collect garbage must have a timetable where residents are made aware as to when they may expect the Green Vehicles to collect their garbage which should be collectively dumped in a designated area. Also a consideration for investment in raw sewage treatment plant is important. There are many advantages. First of all cheaper cooking gas may be produced. Second and third fertilizers and clean recycled water are produced respectively. A cylinder of cooking gas in Juba was 60 SSP but it is now 140, an increase of 133 per cent. Loal production of cooking gas could push down the price to make it affordable to the poor. Fertilisers from the sewage treatment plant could also boost local vegetable production instead of relying on imported vegetables which may be expensive. The recycled water from the plant could be suitable for irrigation as people might find it psychologically unpalatable to drink.


This is an outline of issues relevant to the environment for sustainable development in South Sudan. It is a guideline to develop further concepts for environmental sustainability. Climate change and environmental degradation are real issues of sustainable development for self-reliance that we in South Sudan cannot afford to ignore. These issues can be further elaborated for a concrete adaptation plan for sustainable livelihoods for the people of South Sudan. The ultimate objective is poverty reduction and improvement of the living standards of people.

In conclusion, this article on environmental sustainability for development in South Sudan is not exhaustive. It is rather a highlight of the critical issues of environment. With formulation of projects to mitigate climate change and environmental degradation, South Sudan is likely to become self-reliant and even self-sufficient in agricultural, forestry, animal and fisheries production with a cleaner and safer environment. The Republic of South Sudan has all the resources it takes to be a developed country. It is commitment, determination, political will and getting the priorities right with equitable allocation of resources that are all needed to make a difference in our development efforts for high living standards.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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