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Opinion: How Individual Citizens Can Protect South Sudan’s Environment from Mining and Oil Disasters

By Philip Ayuen Dot,

Nairobi, Kenya,

Petroleum wastes in Unity Oilfields, Unity State (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

July 17, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Our planet has been undergoing several challenges in the last Century when it comes to its environment. As the various reports from the United Nations Environmental Program show, forests have been decimated, wildlife has been dwindling with some going extinct while the greenhouse emissions have contributed greatly to climate change which has been wreaking havoc on the planet. Africa has not been spared and has borne the brunt of the effects of climate change with floods displacing millions and irregular rainfalls leaving others without any food or source of income.

South Sudan has not been spared. And since the country has not known peace for the last 7 years, the environment has been neglected and degraded to the extreme. The State of the environment report, shows that deforestation is taking place at a rate of 2%, while some wild animals have had their numbers reduced by over 95%. Human activities such as mining oil haphazardly have led to underground water pollution which causes the population there to contract diseases.

However, as the world focuses on the Covid-19 pandemic, all is not lost for the country. South Sudan’s population is young. And as shown in countless other countries, the youth have a huge role to play in helping combat climate change, environmental degradation and spearheading environmental conservation and preservation efforts. Here are a few things that the youth can do to avoid environmental catastrophes, not just in Sudan but in Africa as a whole.

Collaboration between the government and the youth in taking care of the environment is one of the most effective ways that environmental disasters can be averted. The youth present a workforce that the government can use to fulfill its mandate to take care and conserve the environment. On top of being possible brand ambassadors for a cleaner and greener environment, they can also be partners in programs to preserve and conserve the environment. This way, the youth can also access funds and materials needed for environmental protection.

One of the environmental challenges facing South Sudan has been the oil industry that has done its operations in ways that have degraded the environment. It is upon this pressing issue that the government needs to be carrying out environmental and social assessments in all areas of oil drilling through a commission. The Environment and Social Impact Assessment Study commissions to determine whether it would be environmentally, socially, technically and economically feasible to develop the oil deposits in the concession area and to construct drill pads, access roads, and accommodation camps.

The oil will initially be for local consumption and later for export to international markets. The commission needs to have public participation in its assessments, and it can achieve this through youth initiatives. The youth can be used to mobilize the community to attend public participation meetings of these environmental assessments, they can also relay the community’s opinions to the commissioners and follow up to ensure that the public’s concerns are captured in the report.

The youth can also be very instrumental in creating awareness on environmental matters. A lot of people do not know the effect of the things they are doing to the environment. And as everyone tries to eke a living from cutting down trees, drilling oil while leaving the waste lying around, they do not know that ultimately this will cause death in the form of floods that shall ensue, and diseases or stillbirths as a result of the oil waste seeping into communal water sources. The youth can educate themselves on ways that their communities can use the environment better and communicate to their peers and the people responsible.

Organizations have also been helpful in the restoration of communities’ environment. The youth can also form organizations to help combat some of the challenges they face. This has been seen to work in various parts of Africa, for example the youth along the Kenyan coast formed an organization to help plant back the mangrove that had been destroyed by loggers. On top of reforestation, the youth can also form community-based organizations concerned with conserving the wildlife next to them. This way they can even earn a living through tourism.

Lobbying and agitating, have also been proven to help stop activities that the government or powerful companies take that are detrimental to the environment. This was seen when the Kenyan Lamu group effectively campaigned against the coal plant in Lamu and finally, the plans were halted. The youth can lobby against companies who use practices that degrade or pollute their environment.

On this front, they can join hands with international environmental agencies and international partners concerned with environmental conservation, and work towards a better environment. This comes in handy, because the youth know their environment better than anyone and can tell what is being done on the ground. And in this digital era, photographing and recording videos of what is happening on the ground, plays a huge role in environmental activism as it gives a realistic picture of what is transpiring.

The other thing that the youth can do is to innovate or come up with new technologies that pollute or degrade the environment less. A lot of people in Africa still depend on firewood for their survival. However, there are energy saving jikos that use less firewood and use it more effectively. Others have found ways of using animal waste to cook as well as industrial innovations that see less poisonous waste being released into the environment. This would definitely help in averting environmental catastrophes.

The environment is our lifeline; if it’s polluted, then human life is affected directly. It is thus important for the Youth of today to work towards avoiding environmental catastrophes. As it has been discussed, this can be done through lobbying and agitating for the correct environmental practices to be used by everyone in their country, they can also come up with more Sustainable ways of utilizing environmental resources. Creating awareness is also integral in fighting environmental degradation. And finally, taking action by planting more trees, cleaning up the environment and mobilizing the community in environmentally friendly practices.

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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