Environment: Sarah Digs a Great Canal

A $260 million waterway for the remote southern Sudan

In the midst of green savannah stretching undisturbed for miles lumbers a Rube Goldberg-like contraption garnished with walkways, conveyor belts, pipes, vents and ducts. With squeaks, clicks, belches and groans, it lurches forward, a 40-ft.-tall wheel revolving at its side. The twelve buckets along the wheel's rim gouge out the earth and occasionally hurl wayward chunks of clay high in the air. Close by, groups of near-naked black tribesmen stand with spears in hand, staring in wonder.

This curious spectacle has occurred almost daily since July 1980, when digging began on black Africa's biggest...

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