Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Sudd Swamp

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The Sudd is a vast wetland ecosystem in southern Sudan where the Nile River meanders for nearly 645 km through the landscape. During the dry season (February 2005 image), the wetlands contract to approximately 8 300 km2 of permanent swamp. During the wet season (July/August 2005 image), the Sudd floods, expanding to cover 80 000 km2. This annual pattern
of water rising and receding shapes the entire ecosystem and is crucial to the survival of the wetlands’ plants and animals and to the nomadic lifestyle of the Nuer, Dinka, and Shilluk people who live in the region.

The Jonglei Canal project (yellow arrow), begun in 1978, was designed to speed the movement of Nile water around the Sudd wetlands, reducing evaporation and making more water available downstream. Despite the possible downstream benefits, the proposed 360-km canal could have a devastating effect on the wetlands of the Sudd. Recent studies also show that the project could impact the regions's climate, groundwater recharging, and water quality as well.

Construction of the canal stopped in 1983 because of armed conflicts in the area during the second Sudanese civil war. This conflict has now ended and plans to resume the canal's construction are being evaluated. Efforts to preserve the wetlands received a major boost in 2006 when the Sudd was added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
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