(Melbourne, Australia) - South Sudan is a nation blessed with natural resources whose consumption will highly require maximum attention for the benefit of our society and the visitors. My professor once mentioned that “the more you consume the greater the waste you generate on daily basis”. It is undeniable that we all experience that notion as we live as humans. South Sudan will emerge to a developmental phase that only compares to the post Second World War development in the west. We all anticipate that oil drilling will increase under GOSS to speed up the nation’s development given TOTAL Oil Company promising to initiate oil drilling in Jonglei State in the near future. The construction of roads, schools, hospitals, government facilities as well as private premises including residential buildings will begin widely in South Sudan.
With these development activities, South Sudan will generate more waste to the level where its citizens will view development as another enemy that is invading them from their traditional lives. The drilling of oil with an increasing exploration of more resources such as gold and natural gas will prompt the displacement of citizens living near the oil reserves. Their water and environment will be contaminated by oil companies leading to diseases which can affect livestocks, biodiversity and the general public. The drilling of oil is a major project that involves some dangerous chemicals such as oxygen scavenger, paraffin dispersant, water coagulant, corrosion inhibitors, biocides and demulsifiers which are of critical importance to the oil and gas industry. However a spill of such chemicals on the land is an environmental hazard to both human and biodiversity.
In major towns across South Sudan, pollution of the environment will increase as buildings are constructed; roads built, goods are manufactured and small to medium businesses are unpacking their little goods to be sold to the public. Not forgetting the great residential waste that constitutes fifty per cent (50%) of solid waste across the cities around the world. Cities have to be fed and provided with energy and water in order to exist and sustain its human population. The bigger the city, the more resources and energy must be extracted from the surrounding areas to sustain it.
Given this potential consumption of resources for developmental projects, an urgent creation of South Sudan Environmental Protection Authority will be needed to create policies that protect the environment from pollution. To develop a nation while waste management strategy is not layout, health of citizens will be tempered with by an act of negligence or a great lack of environmental policies to protect the environment. It is a role of the government to create a policy making body that oversees environmental policies to enhance a sustainable development in South Sudan. Creation of an Environmental Protection body will bring the following benefits to the newly established country:
1- South Sudan Environmental Protection Authority (SSEPA) should be charged with conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) before work commences by all companies operating businesses on the environment namely: Oil companies, mining companies, constructing companies and so on.
2- The SSEPA will ensure that all companies planning to extract resources or drilling oil can submit an Environmental Improvement Plan to the Agency before operation commences.
3- It will ensure that oil companies can manage their chemical waste by ensuring that any spill from the operation is mitigated.
4- The SSEPA will create a Litter Prevention Strategy which can be enacted into law by the South Sudan Parliament in order to prevent unnecessary littering of bottles, cans and food packaging that are found everywhere in South Sudan streets.
5- It will coordinate a creation of landfills where general waste in the cities will be collected and transferred to licensed landfills in order to stop a Sudanese style of waste dumping known as KUSHA in Arabic.
6- The SSEPA will ensure that all businesses operating in the country are obligated to manage their waste. The agency will create a TRIPLE-BOTTOM-LINE policy to keep the companies on toes while operating.
7- It will further create a licensing procedure where waste management companies will be licensed to manage different type of waste. A prescribed waste can never be dumped near residential or a land subject to development in the future.
8- It will initiate installation of bins in public places to help curves littering on streets and in public places.
9- The SSEPA will develop a scientific testing method where water and Air quality are monitored in case of pollution in urban areas.
10- It will also manage run-offs and storm water in urban areas to reduce issues of water borne diseases.
11- The SSEPA will help in management of the SUDD, the greatest wetlands in Africa which was internationally listed as RAMSARS site in 2006.
12- This agency will further link all states in South Sudan since our newly established Ministry of Environment is not represented in any states and the federal jurisdiction is limited to Juba. The SSEPA will act as a main representative of the Ministry of Environment across the Ten States of South Sudan to ensure that environmental policies are implemented.
There are more functions of the agency that can be named in the list above, but this list is just to highlight the significance of the environmental protection in the country. You can put more functions here if you are environmentally conscious. Hence, in this regards, I urge the Presidency of the government of the South Sudan to consider protecting environment before it is exploited by foreign companies. I urge them to improve public health before people get sick from chemical waste such asbestos or hazardous waste. Creation of South Sudan Environmental Protection Authority to be the government watchdog is partly a solution to potential environmental hazards.
Wrapping up the topic, we are all aware of the path that we are taking in term of development in south Sudan. The more resources we will be consuming, the more waste we will be generating on daily basis. This creates my deepest concern about environmental and public health in south Sudan. I presume that more investors were waiting to see the outcome of the referendum, and now there are expectations that investors will pour to the country, given that the peace has come at last. These investors do not mind about the health of the environment if local authorities do not keep them on toes to abide by the country’s policies. They are always there to make money and transfer it back to their home countries. If South Sudan government does not take care of its people and the environment, the world exploiters known as mining companies will invade our virgin land and the locals will never see the fruit of the freedom. It will be another enemy invading our traditional ways of life. Let’s act before it is too late.
Yong Kuai Kuorwel is an environmentalist and urban planner living in Melbourne Australia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org