An Insightful View of Bentiu, South Sudan from Space

The city of Bentiu in South Sudan is facing a major crisis due to consecutive years of flooding. This Copernicus Sentinel-2 image captured in January 2023 reveals the extent of the flooded areas around the city. The majority of the population in South Sudan resides in rural areas and relies on farming, fishing, or herding for sustenance and income. However, the incessant flooding has submerged villages, farmlands, and roads, posing severe challenges for the people.

The false-color image showcases the flooded areas in dark blue or black, using information from the mission’s near-infrared channel. Bright blue sediment in the waters indicates the presence of sediment, while the vibrant shades of red along the rivers signify vegetation. The city of Bentiu, depicted as a yellowish area in the center of the image, stands out like an island amidst the floods. It is situated on the southern bank of the Bahr el-Ghazal River, which separates it from the town of Rubkona on the opposite bank. The El Salaam Bridge can be observed spanning the river and connecting the two cities.

North of Rubkona lies the Bentiu IDP refugee camp, a square structure where many individuals sought shelter after losing their homes to the floods. Surrounding the city and the camp are dry lands and roads visible as light green straight lines. These areas now lie below the waterline and are protected by dikes to prevent further inundation.

The Bahr el-Ghazal River flows from Bentiu through the flooded floodplain in a northeasterly direction. It can be traced in black on the right side of the image as it meanders through Lake No and into the White Nile. The large swampy area extending from the center of the image to the bottom right is known as the Sudd. It is one of Africa’s largest floodplains, consisting of a network of channels, lakes, and swamps.

The Sudd plays a vital role in providing watering and feeding grounds for a high number of endemic mammals and birds, as well as supporting large populations of migratory species. However, the flooding has disrupted this delicate ecosystem, causing significant challenges for both wildlife and humans alike.

The situation in Bentiu is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of communities in the face of climate change. The consecutive years of flooding have not only destroyed homes and infrastructure but have also had a severe impact on agriculture and livelihoods. Efforts to mitigate the effects of flooding, such as building dikes, have been implemented, but they can only offer temporary relief.

Long-term solutions are necessary to address the root causes of flooding and protect vulnerable communities. This includes investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable land management practices, and improving early warning systems. Additionally, international support and collaboration are crucial to provide assistance to those affected and to develop strategies for adaptation and resilience.

The plight of Bentiu serves as a call to action, highlighting the urgent need to address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. By prioritizing sustainable development and resilience-building measures, we can work towards a future where communities like Bentiu are better equipped to withstand the challenges posed by climate change.