South Sudan: A New Green Country?

February 15, 2011 – Kurt Thurber

On July 9, 2011 a new country will be born as the population of South Sudan chose to break away from the northern part of the country. At the end of a referendum process, South Sudan decided with nearly 99 percent of vote to become the newest sovereign nation. Great news for the cartography industry, new world and African maps are going to be needed. Diplomatically and politically, it is hoped that it will end the civil unrest between the Arab/Islamic population in the north and the Christian population in the south.  Let’s take this opportunity to exam what the creation of this new country will mean for environmental issues that plague Africa and the world.

South Sudan will not be starting its existence in a poll position. The total population for the region is estimated somewhere between 8 to 14 million due to refugees coming back to the area and no central government apparatus to provide a census. The country’s infrastructure is lacking. Paved roads are nearly non-existent outside of the capital, Jubba. All electricity is generated by private generators. Due to the ongoing civil conflicts throughout Sudan’s history there are many armed factions still in the country.

If this was enough to deal with, the country is loaded with natural resources. They have an estimated 6.7 billion reserves in oil. There are large deposits gold, copper and iron ore. Before breaking away from the rest of Sudan, South Sudan faces the possibility of exploitation of its resources. Chinese oil companies already operate in the area.  For developing or third world countries, natural resources are as much a curse as a blessing. The mineral wealth will ensure that South Sudan has a relationship with the United States, the European Union, China and India, however, the extraction of raw materials and oil creates very few jobs and most of the profits will not be spent in South Sudan.  

It is estimated that 90 percent of the land in South Sudan is arable for agricultural production. Much of the land is used to support 11 million head of cattle, most of which are not used for beef production. Traditional beliefs in the area use cows as status symbols and currency. Many Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are attempting to educate the South Sudanese to use more ecological herd practices as well as introducing profitable agricultural and orchard practices.

A September 2007 USAID report, sponsored by the International Resource Group, studied South Sudan’s wildlife and environmental resources. South Sudan possesses six different habitats including vast numbers of woodlands. Within these habitats there are various forms of wildlife from herds of gazelles and wildebeest to various indigenous fauna. As of now South Sudan contains five protected parks with a proposed sixth.  Conservation could be one of South Sudan’s most economical practices. The report lists the following factors as impediments towards the sustainability are a lack of government authority to enforce biodiversity standards, slow decentralization of management to environmental areas and the movement of people due to the conflict in the area. As with mineral exploitation, South Sudan’s various woodlands are also in danger of commercial exploitation and over-use for domestic consumption.

The bottom-line is that South Sudan is teeming with different habitats and subsequent wildlife. If they find stability in their government eco-tourism is an industry they can use to provide a higher standard of living for their population. This can be not only a new start for the people of South Sudan, also the way economical and sustainable development strategies are implemented. Most developing societies assume they have to go through traditional methods of Western civilization which caused much pollution. In the present and in the future, technologies and knowledge exists that these trends can be broken. South Sudan deserves to be a template for sustainable development and conservation.

Featured Image – Getty Images

Figure 1. – War News Updates

Figure 2. – Wildlife Consevation Society

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