Business prospectors and job seekers from different parts of Sudan and South Sudan are flocking to oil-rich Melut County, especially the payams (townships) of Paloich and Adar Yale.
Located in Upper Nile State, Melut's seven payams hada population of 77,117 when the 2008 census was conducted. But the area has since increased in residents and demand for goods, which has sparked the opening of new shops, workshops, and restaurants.
"Paloich has become the meeting point for those coming from (the towns of) Malakal, Nasir, Renk and Maban because of its oil resources," said Melut County Executive Director Achuil Abwol.
A relatively new resident of the area is Mohammed Adam Ali, who moved from Kosti in Sudan's White Nile State to settle and open a business in Paloich in 2008.
"I came to Paloich ... and started my business by opening a small restaurant, but when the number of customers increased I expanded it," Mr. Ali said. "Now it has become a big restaurant."
His business returns now far exceed what he previously brought in."The money I am getting in Paloich per a day is double what I was getting in Kosti," the restauranteur said.
The area's rapid expansion in business and population is largely attributed to Petrodar Operating Company (PDOC), a consortium of oil exploration and production firms operating in the county.
Comprised of China National Petroleum Corporation (41 per cent share), Petronas of Malaysia (40 per cent), Sudapet of Sudan (8 per cent) and Al Thani Corporation of United Arab Emirates (5 per cent), PDOC began operations in 1999.
The Wealth Sharing Protocol of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between what was then Sudan's north and south allocated at least 2 per cent of oil revenue to the oil-producing state.
After receiving 2 per cent of total oil revenue from the central government in Khartoum during the CPA era, the Upper Nile State Ministry of Finance distributed money to counties to fund development programmes.
The monthly amount of oil revenue allocated for the state was variable as it depended on the United States dollar rate in the global market.
"The money we got was not fixed," said Pal Roach Doap, Finance Committee Chairperson in the Upper Nile State Legislative Assembly. "Sometimes we get 15 to 16 million Sudanese pounds per month."
In addition to the oil revenue, PDOC has a corporate social responsibility to develop states in which they operate, as do other oil companies in South Sudan.
"We are committed to provide health, clean water, education and power services in addition to constructing roads and bridges to support the inhabitants of the county," said PDOC Director of Health and Safety Sabri Mohammed Shaleh.
"We have built seven schools and two health centres and we will continue to do more," he added.
Melut County has 16 basic schools and one secondary school, which was built by PDOC. Unfortunately, the state Ministry of Education is lacking staff for the schools.
"We have only 70 teachers," noted Sayed Mohammed Bakhit, Director of Education in Melut County. "They are not enough to run these schools. We requested the Ministry of Education to send us 55 teachers and we are still waiting for them."
While the revenue has a definite benefit, residents of Melut are unhappy with side effects the oil fields have had on their environment.
Many animals, for instance, have died after drinking from water drains polluted with petroleum waste.
"I did not know that the oil was going to have a negative impact on our animals," said Paloich resident Isaac Deng, adding that residents had been urging the company to put fences around petroleum drainage areas to keep animals from drinking polluted water.
PDOC Director Shaleh said the consortium was planning to erect these fences to ensure the safety of domestic animals in areas around oil fields.