Juba: A city shaped like a giraffe? A rhino-shaped town? Even one that looks from above like a pineapple?
Southern Sudan has unveiled ambitious plans to remake its capital cities in the shapes found on their state flags, and an official says the government is talking with investors to raise the USD 10 billion the fanciful communities would cost.
The plan in the war-torn region comes ahead of a scheduled January referendum on independence, which most people here believe will lead to the creation of the world`s newest country. The south is rich in oil, but poverty and hunger is high throughout the region, which is struggling to recover after a civil war more than two decades long.
The USD 10 billion concept will take decades to carry out, officials concede, though it may never escape the planning stages. The southern government`s own 2010 budget was only USD 1.9 billion, and the UN says more than 90 percent of Southern Sudan`s population lives on less than USD 1 a day.
The plans have evoked bemused smiles or outright laughter in Juba, a town that until two years ago barely had any paved roads.
"It doesn`t seem like the (Government of Southern Sudan) should be using its resources or staff time when the people of Southern Sudan lack basic services like health care and water," Nora Petty, an aid worker in Juba with the Malaria Consortium.
Government officials concede that a lot of money is needed to finance the project, which includes a plan to transform two state capitals into the shapes of a giraffe and a pineapple.
Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, is to be reshaped into a compact rhino with two pointy horns. The new area will be called "Rhino City”.
Officials said the plan would bring order to the city`s chaotic layout.