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Opinion: Environmental crisis: The hazard of water pollution in South Sudan.

By Philip Ayuen Dot

The River Nile (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

July 7, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – As South Sudan tries to catch up with other nations on all developmental issues, the environment is one area that needs outmost focus. And while on this, goal number six of the sustainable developmental goals stating that all nations shall ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, is one that should be taken into consideration. But for the country to ensure sustainable management of their water sources, water pollution in the rivers and lakes needs to be stopped.

As of now, water pollution is a serious issue affecting all the country’s water sources. This has had disastrous results as people’s health is adversely affected, as seen in the increase of water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, Giardia, malaria, Escherichia Coli (E Coli, Hepatitis A). For the communities living near oil wells that have contaminated their water sources, there has been an increase in miscarriages and children born with birth defects.

The armed personnel have not been spared either water pollution in 2015 in a military barracks (Malakal and Bortown) resulted in over 200 deaths as reported by CNN. It thus goes without saying that water pollution in south Sudan is a serious issues that can no longer be ignored.

Some of the sources of water pollution include; the dumping of untreated  industrial waste in rivers and lakes, agriculture, animal grazing, construction, the aftermath of natural disasters , the old septic systems in place, urban runoffs, household products and erosion.

On agriculture, the latest National Water Quality Inventory stated that it is the number one source of water pollutants. This reports cites that 60% of the degradation of rivers and 50% of the impaired lake acreage is due to agricultural activities. With sediment that washes away from agriculture being the main pollutant.

This sediments contain a wide range of pollutants including pesticides, greases and oil, as well as toxic chemicals. Heavy metals were also found and are carried from farmlands into water supplies.

Animal grazing which is a major source of income for the residents is another culprit polluting water sources. The large amounts of cattle kept in South Sudan see to it that during the rainy season their waste that contains a lot of organic waste finds its way into the rivers and lakes.

This increases the amount of algae in the water sources, thus reducing the amount of oxygen in the water, making it unfit for fish survival and reducing its turbidity. The animal waste also sometimes causes the spread of deadly viruses and bacteria that ultimately could affect human beings health when the water is drunk untreated, and it also spreads the diseases to other herds of cows that use the same water.

With all major towns in South Sudan experiencing some construction boom, the construction industry is another source of water pollutants. Road constructions and home constructions are also a major part of that pollution as their waste is dumped haphazardly. Some of the huge construction projects are given to foreigners who may not adhere to the environmental regulations in place of the correct way of dumping this waste to avoid polluting the rivers and lakes. This has increased sedimentation in the water sources.

Just like the rest of Africa, South Sudan experiences its fair share of natural disasters such as perennial floods. They cause massive soil erosions. Some of the pollutants found on land that find their way into water sources during floods are actually toxic and hazardous. This includes refuse from oil wells, hospital or health care waste, industrial waste and agricultural waste.

During floods a lot of things are washed away and they inadvertently find their way into rivers and lakes, these include trees, buildings, construction equipment and various household items. Though natural disasters are common, their contribution to water pollution in South Sudan is not well documented or recognized yet it plays a big role as some toxic and hazardous material only find their water into the water sources only because of floods, thus endangering the lives of people and cattle.

South Sudan’s septic system is mostly old and damaged. In some cases it doesn’t even exist. This has resulted into human waste sometimes seeping into the underground water sources and contaminating drinking water. This causes the spread of diseases such as cholera. This is rampant especially in cases where people rely on wells, and given that piped water is almost nonexistent, this affects a large portion of the population.

The mismanagement of household products and waste is also another source of water pollution. Sometimes people are ignorant of the handling of chemicals that are not supposed to be dumped in the waterways, while other times they are careless of how they dispose of their waste.

Industrial pollution is another major source of river and lake pollution in the country. The waste generated during the manufacturing process contains harsh and harmful chemicals, sometimes including metals such as mercury and lead, which are dangerous if they find their way into people’s bodies.

There are issues of illegal dumping of untreated waste into the rivers and lakes.  There is thus need for stringent regulations, stiffer penalties and effective implementation of the laws against dumping of untreated waste into the water sources.

But all is not lost for the nation when it comes to water pollution. There are measures that can be taken to reduce the amount and the toxicity of the waste that pollutes the rivers and lakes. The most important one is to create awareness of water pollution. Most of the farmers and those that keep animals are not aware that their economic activity ultimately ends up polluting the water sources they use. They can be made aware of how to correctly use pesticides to avoid them finding their way into rivers and lakes.

For those with animals, ensuring that their waste is contained will also see a reduction of organic waste in the rivers and lakes. The passing of stricter laws that regulate the dumping of wastes in rivers, is also another way to ensure that industrial pollution is curbed. This goes hand in hand with ensuring the effective implementation of rules governing water conservation.

So far there is a laudable effort going into reducing water pollution. Cleanup days where debris is removed from rivers are quite good measures. However, they are not enough and more needs to be done in the long term range. After all, prevention is the most powerful tool in the arsenal against water pollution.

The author graduated from Kenyatta University, Kenya, with BSc of Environmental Science, and can be reached via his email: philipdot57@gmail.com

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