As an expert, Climate and conflict should be addressed as a single issue whereby it is exacerbating the civil war in South Sudan.

The current   conflict in South Sudan has forced Millions to rely on UN camps and others to flee to the neighbouring countries like Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya for safety and food.

Research indicates that the environmental damage caused by global warming is increasing the suffering that war was already causing in the strife-ridden country, worsening food shortages and building pressure on urban areas.

Statistics from UN refugee agency UNHCR show that since the conflict began, about four million citizens have been displaced or forced to flee their homes. Of these, 1.9 million are internally displaced while more than two million people have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Due to its open-door policy to refugees, Uganda is currently hosting more than one million of these refugees.

This has led to an unplanned expansion of cities, which creates environments poorly adapted to the impacts of climate change, which can put pressure on   water and energy infrastructure within build up areas and those left without energy resort to cutting wood, which can worsen the problem of deforestation.

In the capital city of Juba, displaced people have led to “a lot of houses being constructed without proper    planning” and that the government must “address the issue of town planning as an integral part of the environment policy.”

Meanwhile, flooding has increased problems of food scarcity, which has burdened the country since war broke out, due to the difficulty of farming in war torn areas.

While most credit the current conflict to ethnic tensions and a dispute between the President and his deputy, the situation in South Sudan adds credence to scientists and experts’ theories that climate change can act as a “threat multiplier”, aggravating the effects of pre-existing violence and triggering further tension, creating security threats in vulnerable countries.

Politicians are also beginning to take note of the security implications of Climate change, as it has become the “world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”.

The situation needs to call on the international community to address climate and conflict in a more integrated manner, recognising the links between the two.

“Conflicts aggravate the climate defence on the ground, and therefore a coordinated approach where you address issues of conflict and climate as one,” is needed.

“By preventing conflicts, political leaders needs to protect the environment, because in an environment of civil war like the one in South Sudan, the  rebels are free to inflict any damage on the environment unchecked and without  accountability. “It is not only in South Sudan, but many conflict affected countries have experience of environmental degradation on a large scale.”

Ground zero

But war can also act as an opportunity for countries to rebuild in a way that will help them to deal with the impacts of climate change, in that rebuilding the country almost from scratch after the destruction caused by civil wars and ethnic tensions can allow to embed climate into its constitution, including the 2008 Environment Protection Agency Act.

What war does, it reduces the economy to zero, so a country will have to go back on the drawing board and literally start all over again and this is an opportunity to rebuild Adaptive measures, Mitigation measures, and ensure that you put in mechanisms that will lessen the impacts of Climate change.”

In some instances climate measures can contribute to the country’s economic boom where the civil war has ended but the immediate concerns of the population could still threaten to overshadow the environmental agenda.

Therefore both leaders should recognise that there’s an inter-linkage between protection of the environment and Sustainable Development.

“However, both leaders have got to understand that for the majority of the population, their thoughts are of the benefits, the benefits of now, the benefits that the oil mining (Oil Tax Revenue) will give the Sudanese in   respect of where they’re going to settle and conduct activities.

 

 

 

Executive Director - CESI. A graduate of Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Management from Makerere University, with a post Graduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety from Exceed Institute of Occupational Health and Safety Kampala Uganda Management Institute. He has over 10 years of continuous engagement as an Environmentalist and overtime he has developed experience both Local and International as Enviro-Climate Change Analyst. He also hosts a TV Show program called Eyes on Environment-Uganda’s Environmental TV Show showing every Wednesday from 9-10pm on Shiloh TV.

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