The Impassable Swamps of South Sudan – The Sudd Marshlands

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The impassable swamps of central South Sudan are a winding network of lagoons, side channels, lakes and reeds as far as the eye can see. With a surface area of over 30,000 square km. during the dry season and 130,000 during the rainy one, the Sudd marshlands are the second largest in the world after Pantanal in South America.

As the main wetland in Africa, Sudd is home to a vast number of both migratory and permanent birds, reptiles and antelopes. The region supports at least 419 species of birds, 91 species of mammals and over 1200 species of plant life. Among these bid species, the most prolific are the Saddle-billed stork, the pink and white pelicans, the Goliath heron -the tallest species of heron in the world (1.4 meters)-.

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Among the many species of antelope living here, the Nile lechwe is specialized for living in marshlands. It is also found only here in the Sudd. They don’t have to be mindful of feine predators but only about crocodiles, pitons and people.

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The marshland is drained by the White Nile and its tributaries, manly the Al-Jabal (Mountain Nile) River. Due to the ever changing channels and grasslands, navigation is impossible. This is why in the late 1970s construction began on the Jonglei (Junqalī) Canal, in order to bypass the swamp altogether. This would have drained the marshland completely, but due to the civil war that started in the country, the project was never completed.

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Today only a handful of pastoral Nilotic Nuer people live here, in harmony with nature, following the laws of the swamp. Together with the many wild animals in these wetlands, they make a living, following the change of the seasons.

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The name Sudd is the Arabic term for papyrus, a plant that grows in abundance within the huge swampland. It acts as a permanent safe-heaven and and pit stop for many animals in the region especially during the dry season. The eventual draining of the Sudd swampland, either for agricultural use or for a greater water flow towards North Sudan and Egypt would prove to be a catastrophic natural disaster, as many species of plants and animals depend on it for their survival.

 

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