The Jonglei Canal is a canal project that has been proposed, started but never completed to divert water through the vast Sudd wetlands of South Sudan so as to deliver more water downstream to Sudan and Egypt for use in agriculture.

Jonglei Canal
South Sudan Lucy digger.jpg
Lucy, a digger used to dig the Jonglei canal, has remained in its current location since 1983, when canal construction ended. (Location: N07.013297 E031.508134)
The Sudd wetlands (red) and the aborted Jonglei Canal project (green) in South Sudan.


Due to the Sudd swamp, the water from the southwestern tributaries of the Nile, the Bahr el Ghazal system, for all practical purposes does not reach the main river and is lost through evaporation and transpiration. Hydrogeologists in the 1930s proposed digging a canal east of the Sudd which would divert water from the Bahr al Jabal above the Sudd to a point farther down the White Nile, bypassing the swamps and carrying the White Nile's waters directly to the main channel of the river.[1]

Planning and constructionEdit

Sir William Garstin, Undersecretary of State of Public Works of Egypt, created the first detailed proposal for digging a canal east of the Sudd in 1907.[2] By bypassing the swamps, it was calculated that evaporation of the Nile's water would vastly decrease, allowing an increase in the area of cultivatable land in Egypt by two million acres.

The Jonglei canal scheme was first studied by the government of Egypt in 1946 and plans were developed in 1954-59. Construction work on the canal began in 1978 but the outbreak of political instability in Sudan has held up work for many years. By 1984 when the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) brought the works to a halt, 240 km of the canal of a total of 360 km had been excavated.

The rusting remains of the giant German-built excavation machine – nicknamed "Sarah" [3]- are visible in satellite images near the south end of the canal. It was damaged by a missile. As peace was restored in 2000, speculation grew about a restart of the project. However on February 2, 2008, the Sudanese Government said the revival of the project was not a priority. However, in 2008, Sudan and Egypt agreed to restart the project and finish the canal after 24 years.[4]

The independence of South Sudan in 2011 effectively ended the role of the Sudanese Government in regard to the canal. The project has been discussed, but there is currently no agreement on resuming the project.

Potential impactEdit

It is estimated that the Jonglei canal project would divert 3.5-4.8 x 109 m³ of water per year (equal to a mean annual discharge of 110–152 m³/s (3,883-5,368 ft³/s), an increase of around five to seven per cent of Egypt's current supply.[5]

Little or no consideration had been given within Egypt to the ability of the Sudd swamplands to act as a sponge and regulator of floodwaters.

The canal's highly questionable benefits would be shared by Egypt and Sudan, with the expected damage falling on South Sudan.[4] The complex and potentially catastrophic environmental and social issues involved, including the collapse of fisheries, drying of grazing lands,[6] a drop of groundwater levels and a reduction of rainfall in the region,[7][page needed] may limit the scope of the project in practical terms.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Big Canal To Change Course of Nile River", October 1933, Popular Science short article on top-right of page with map
  2. ^ "The Egyptian Sudan, its history and monuments". Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  3. ^ "Environment: Sarah Digs a Great Canal". Time. 10 January 1983. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  4. ^ a b Ahmad, A.M. (2008) Post-Jonglei planning in southern Sudan: combining environment with development Environment and Urbanization, October 2008
  5. ^ Furniss, Charlie (April 2010). "Draining Africa's Eden". Geographical. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  6. ^ "Jonglei Canal Project Is A Looming Catastrophe". Gurtong. 8 September 2006. Retrieved 22 Oct 2010.
  7. ^ De Villiers, Marq, 2001. Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource. Mariner Books. ISBN 978-0-618-12744-3
  8. ^ "Jonglei Project in Southern Sudan: for whose benefit is it? - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan". Sudan Tribune. Retrieved 2016-03-12.

Further readingEdit

  • Paul Philip Howell, Michael Lock (1988). The Jonglei Canal: impact and opportunity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-30286-2.

Coordinates: 7°0′47″N 31°30′29″E / 7.01306°N 31.50806°E / 7.01306; 31.50806