Sunday, September 27, 2015

Egypt's Pope Tawadros II arrives in Addis Ababa He wont talk about the Dam- Politics

Egypt's Pope Tawadros II arrives in Addis Ababa

The Egyptian pope denies in interview with Al-Ahram daily that he was commissioned to address the contentious Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue

Ahram Online , Saturday 26 Sep 2015
Pope Tawadros II, the pope of the Coptic Orthodox church (Photo: Reuters)
Head of Egypt’s Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, arrived to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Saturday on a four-day visit where he will participate in the Feast of the Holy Cross, reported Al-Ahram Arabic news website.
Tawadros II was received by Ethiopian Patriarch Mathias I of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Church at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa in an official reception.
The Egyptian pope headed to Ethiopia heading a delegation from the Egyptian Orthodox Church. 
In interview with Al-Ahram daily newspaper published Saturday, Pope Tawadros II denied that his trip to Ethiopia was related to the latest developments in talks between Egypt and Ethiopia over Nile River water shares, or the construction of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
“This is a church visit, to repay the visit of Father Mathias I to Cairo and it has no relation with the current talks about the Nile River or the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,” Pope Tawadros II said. 
Patriarch Mathais I visited Egypt earlier this year. 
Pope Tawadros II also added that he was not commissioned by anyone to speak about the Nile River or Egyptian-Ethiopian relations. 
“The Nile River water is a gift of God, it should not be disputed,” the head of the Egyptian Orthodox Church said, adding his patriotic feelings and relations between the two churches pushed him to find consensus. 
Currently, talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam are stalled after the withdrawal of Dutch consultancy firm Deltares from studies related to assessing the probable impact of GERD.
The future of the negotiations remains unclear after Deltares's withdrawal.
Egypt has repeatedly expressed concern about its Nile water share in the context of the construction of the dam.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Drought, Hydropower, and Africa’s Energy Crisis - Diplomatic Courier

Written by Uju Okoye

It seems that only crises of a certain nature—usually terrorism or strongmen trampling on their country’s constitution—can draw the world’s attention to Africa. As such, it is unfair that the worst drought in a decade, which has put at risk almost ten percent of Southern Africa and left a record number of people in need of aid, has gone almost unnoticed.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, extended drought has caused the most severe conditions in nearly a quarter century. In neighboring nations—Zambia and Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Botswana—conditions are no better, and the region’s prevalent food insecurity has sent it to the precipice of a looming humanitarian crisis. The main rice crop in one Zambian district is decimated. South Africa’s maize production dropped so sharply that it annulled the country’s net exporter status after Johannesburg resorted to food imports to stave off famine.
While it is hard to envision a more pressing need than hunger, this famine is sadly amplified by yet another factor: power.
Across Africa, many countries are dependent on hydropower to meet their energy needs. Although millions of people still remain off the electrical power grid—in Lesotho, for example, only 21 percent have access to electricity, and some 22 percent in Zambia—the drought has dramatically affected power generation for domestic use as governments struggle to keep the lights on for industrial customers. That leaves South Africans, Zimbabweans, and others cut off for up to 16 hours a day. Worse, Botswanans marched through the streets of Gabarone earlier in September, demanding the resumption of steady water and electricity supplies, even if officials don’t expect to see them remedied before 2017, as its aging infrastructure needs urgent upgrades.
There’s even a technical term for the selective blackouts that governments have resorted to in their struggles to cope with soaring demand and underinvestment: load shedding. This is a last ditch option to prevent the entire grid from collapsing, by selectively shutting down supplies to different parts of the distributions region. In Zambia, that creates a circular, Kafkaesque scenario: low water levels lead to load shedding, which cuts off power from the pumps ensuring clean water to homes and business in Lusaka. In South Africa, load shedding translates to 100 days without power throughout the year. It feeds into the economy and leads to shortages of other commodities like LPG canisters, increased fire and sanitation risks, job cuts, and crippling industry shutdowns that compromise future growth and discourage foreign investment. These economic impacts in turn make it harder to buy food, cause drought-related refugees, and raise fears of social unrest—all consequences and patterns anticipated by climate change experts.
Cascading effects in African economies
Nowhere is the need to prioritize long-term, meaningful and sustainable energy policies truer than in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Between them lies Lake Kariba, the world’s largest manmade reservoir and the site of a hydropower plant that delivers half of Zambia’s energy and much of Zimbabwe’s. Low water levels have threatened a total shutdown by October, and have put at risk Zambia’s copper mines, already reeling from the combined effect of low cooper prices and decreasing Chinese demand as its economy crashes.
“This is serious, it could bring our economy to its knees,” Zambian analyst Maambo Hamaundu tells Reuters. “We wonder how the government expects to attract investment and grow the economy when it can hardly provide adequate electricity for the few businesses that are struggling to stay afloat,” says a Zimbabwean Newsday editorial, calling on the government to declare an state of emergency and insisting that the country find alternatives to the failing infrastructure of its colonial-era hydropower.
Indeed, the drought has underscored the degree to which Africa’s dependence on hydropower is both a blessing and a curse. Massive dam projects across Africa inherited from colonial times have limitations under the best of circumstances, in terms of keeping up with Africa’s growing population, energy demands and economic clout.
However, on one hand, just 8 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s hydropower potential has been developed, with a 2014 World Bank report even encouraged governments to strike up private public partnerships with the mining companies driving power demand in the region. But continued plans for hydropower use by nations need to take into consideration the potential conflicts that could arise in the long run, as global warming saps water supplies across the continent. Even if water wars have yet to come to pass, simmering tensions between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over a planned dam make it painfully clear that African countries have to seek out energy alternatives.
The call for sustainable solutions
Given the African continent’s capacity for leapfrogging, it can and should bypass the obsolete fossil-fuel sources of the West, while engaging developed nations on long term solutions. In Zambia, utility companies are already encouraging consumers to conserve energy, and have distributed 2 million compact fluorescent lamps while ramping up their investment in solar plants.
There are also calls for Canadian and other owners of African-based businesses, especially in the power-hungry mines devoted to extracting African resources, to support the demand they create. To the extent that foreign firms have bought and operated these businesses, often at the expense of the environment and health of local communities, they have a moral obligation to invest in the solutions.
“Energy is life,” writes the editorial staff at Zambia’s Daily Mail, aware that the power crisis in drought-stricken southern Africa is inseparable from the increasing food insecurity and economic manifestations that climate conditions have caused. “Our survival will depend on how we interact commercially on the world arena because, like water, energy is life. The application of electricity affects every aspect of human endeavor.”

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ethiopia's Power Dreams | BBC World Service | International Rivers

Ethiopia's Power Dreams

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Two major dams are coming on stream this year and next that could revolutionise East African power supplies. The turbines of Gibe Three have begun generating power in the last month. The even larger Grand Renaissance Dam should begin doing so after the rainy season in 2017. But critics say the environmental costs have not been properly assessed - both to the country's rural population and to those of neighbouring countries like Kenya and Egypt. Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Program director of the pressure group, International Rivers, says Lake Turkana in Kenya could have its access to incoming river water reduced by up to 90%.
Meanwhile local farmers complain they are being driven off the land to make way for sugar plantations supplied by the dam. The government minister responsible for Water Irrigation and Energy, Alemayehu Tegenu, tells us that such concerns need to be set aside for the good of the nation. Meanwhile Professor Asfaw Beyene, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University in southern California, claims that the government's projections for the power-generation of both dams have been grossly exaggerated, leading to false expectations about their value 
to the economy and the region.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dutch Deltares withdraws from studies of Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam - Ahram Online

Dutch Deltares withdraws from studies of Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online: "Dutch consultancy firm Deltares has decided not to participate in studies related to the assessment of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam.
In an email to Ahram Hebdo, the consultancy firm said it concluded that the conditions imposed by the Tripartite National Committee (TNC), which includes representatives from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, and the French consultancy firm BRL, did not provide sufficient guarantees for Deltares that an independent high-quality study could be carried out.

“Deltares regrets that it has to withdraw from these challenging studies as its knowledge, expertise and experience in the region fits quite well with this complex and economically important project,” the consultancy firm said.

The future of the Renaissance Dam negotiations remain unclear after Deltares's withdrawal; especially after Egypt said Wednesday that it will host a meeting involving all the included parties.

Egyptian minister of irrigation Hossam Moghazy and his advisor Alaa Yassin were not available for comments

Earlier in August, the TNC previously agreed to give 70 percent of the research workload to the French consultancy firm, while the other 30 percent was given to the Dutch firm.

The two foreign consultancy firms were supposed to reach an agreement and deliver their reports 5 September to a committee of representatives and experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

They missed a deadline in August and forced the TNC to schedule the new deadline of 5 September, after a meeting in Addis Ababa."

'via Blog this'

Monday, September 7, 2015

Foreign consultants miss Renaissance Dam deadline; Egypt concerned - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online


A general view shows construction activity on the Grand Renaissance dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region March 16, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
Irrigation minister Hossam Moghazi expressed on Sunday Egypt’s concern about the failure of foreign consultancy firms to submit reports on the impact of the Renaissance Dam, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

Two foreign consultancy firms, France's BRL and Dutch group Deltares, were supposed to reach an agreement and deliver their reports on 5 September to a tripartite committee of representatives and experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
They missed a deadline last August and forced the tripartite committee to schedule the new deadline of 5 September after a meeting in Addis Ababa.
The three countries had agreed to give 70 percent of the research workload to the French consultancy firm with the Dutch firm getting the rest.
It is not clear why the consultancy firms did not deliver their reports to the committee on time.
However, Moghazi asserted that Egypt is committed to the "declaration of principles" which they signed with Sudan and Ethiopia in March 2015, agreeing to safeguard the interests of all three countries.
Egypt is expected to discuss the situation with Ethiopia and Sudan to determine the best course of action for the three countries.
Egypt has previously voiced concerns about its share of the Nile's water.
According to the irrigation ministry, Egypt is suffering from a water deficit of 20 billion cubic meters, which it compensates through water recycling, an inadvisable process in the long run.
The Renaissance Dam, scheduled to be completed in 2017, will be Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant with a storage capacity of 74 billion cubic meters of water.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

EU diplomats reveal devastating impact of Ethiopia dam project on remote tribes | Environment | The Guardian

 The controversial Gibe III dam under construction in Ethiopia’s Omo valley in 2012.
The controversial Gibe III dam under construction in Ethiopia’s Omo Valley in 2012. Photograph: Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images
A controversial World Bank-funded scheme to dam a major Ethiopian river and import up to 500,000 people to work in what is planned to be one of the world’s largest sugar plantations has led to tens of thousands of Africa’s most remote and vulnerable people being insensitively resettled.
According to reports, released this week, by two teams of British, American and EU diplomats who visited the resettlement areas in the Lower Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia last year, the lives of 20,000 Mursi, Bodi and other semi-nomadic tribespeople are being “fundamentally and irreversibly” changed by the mega-project.
The $5bn (£3.3bn) Gibe III dam, which towers 243 metres high and will generate 1,870 megawatts (MW) of electricity when completed later this year, will irrigate up to 175,000 hectares of land previously used by herders and small farmers. Constructed with money from the World Bank it has already been linked by human rights groups and anthropologists to conflict and widespread abuses by the Ethiopian government.
But the UK government, which is Ethiopia’s largest donor, twice rejected freedom of information requests to release the findings of the diplomats’ field visits to the resettlement areas on the grounds that publication could jeopardise relations between the countries.
“Releasing the information requested could significantly damage the UK’s ability to deliver government policy and to protect and promote UK interests,” it argued.
However, two documents from the Donor Advisory Group released to Survival International by the European commission this week suggest that the Ethiopian government insisted that indigenous communities living downstream of the dam had no choice but to quit their ancestral lands to make way for the plantations.
In over 30 pages of reports of meetings held with communities and individuals last year, the diplomats say that the Ethiopian government did not obtain the full prior consent of the tribes as recommended under international law. Many of the tribes had no idea that the dam would effect them, they said.
People from one un-named village were said to have been: “placed in a muddy and isolated site, in inferior huts. Their situation was deplorable; the absence of sanitation means [they] are suffering diseases such as bloody diarrhea and malaria. Services are unavailable, it takes a two-hour walk to the nearest canal for bad quality drinking water while the nearest health post is eight hours on foot. Residents say the government does not allow this group to move out.”
The diplomats reported that the remote Omo Valley has been totally transformed since the river Omo was blocked and irrigation canals built. They said they expected the influx of 500,000 workers, mainly from the Ethiopian Highlands, would lead to ethnic conflict and widespread social destabilisation.
A second group of British, EU and other diplomats who visited groups of resettled Suri people heard evidence of corruption, financial mismanagement, land grabbing, inter-tribal raiding, and poorly planned settlements.
The diplomats, who were accompanied at all times by government officials, said they found no evidence of forced migration but stated that the government was not offering the semi-nomadic communities any alternative to permanent settlement and had not fully consulted groups before evicting them.
They also found that the giant sugar plantations would deny the tribespeople access to grazing and farming lands on which they depend for survival. Around 200,000 people in the Omo Valley are likely to be affected by the dam in some way.
“It seems clear that local government and plantation have decided that resettlement is necessary. Government is not offering communities any alternative but to settle permanently,” said one report.
While some communities and individuals said they welcomed a more sedentary life with better access to health and education in the new villages, many others fiercely rejected the government scheme and have sought to remain independent.
The diplomats said they were not confident that they were getting a clear picture from communities whose testimonies were translated by government officials who appeared “anxious and distracted”. It was only when interviews were conducted without interpreters that they felt confident they were receiving an accurate impression of the situation.
“Security is a major concern linked to an increase in the proportion of armed men and the use of alcohol. Traditional systems of conflict resolution are declining ... these cultural trends tend to increase the number of killings,” one report said.
Britain’s Department for International Development (Dfid) has denied any responsibility for resettling people in the Lower Omo Valley but said it had contributed money for education, health, road projects and basic services across Ethiopia, potentially including the valley.
The reports are embarrassing for the UK government because Britain was the largest of 21 international donors to a $4.9bn World Bank-organised funding program called Promoting Basic Services (PBS). This was designed to pay for health, road and water provision for people in resettlement areas across Ethiopia. Earlier this year it pulled out of the scheme having contributed an estimated £750m. 
In a statement, Dfid said: “The UK has never funded Ethiopia’s resettlement programmes. Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. UK aid to Ethiopia is improving the lives of millions of people by supporting health, water and education programmes, promoting job creation and improving people’s nutrition.
“Our previous support to the Promoting Basic Services programme paid for health, education, water, roads and agricultural services provided by local governments. It did not support Ethiopia’s resettlement programmes.”
The two teams of diplomats made 37 recommendations to the Ethiopian government. These ranged from ensuring that all resettlement programnmes are voluntary, to guaranteeing water and latrines in villages, consulting people before moving them, and offering people alternatives to becoming sedentary.
The diplomats’ missions to the Omo Valley followed a damning report by Human Rights Watch and the World Bank’s inspection panel. Although the World Bank rejected its panel’s findings, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim admitted to serious flaws with its resettlement programmes.
Survival International accused Britain of trying to cover up abuses by the Ethiopian government. “It took Dfid almost two years to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations. The two reports which it tried to prevent the public from reading show just how far it will go to cover up abuses by a regime which receives hundreds of millions of pounds of UK tax payers’ money,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Hunter.
The Ethiopian government said in a statement: “Last year’s Donor Advisory Group (DAG) report was generally positive, but where recommendations were made, or when the government itself noted that there was obviously a need for improvement, it has taken remedial action and improvements have been made, and continue to be made on an on-going basis.”
The downstream impact of the dam is also hotly contested. Some hydrologists have predicted that Ethiopia’s expansion of water-intensive sugar and cotton plantations on the Omo river, which the Gibe III dam allows, could reduce flow to Lake Turkana by up to 70%. This would kill ecosystems and greatly reduce the water level of the lake, on which tens of thousands of herders and vulnerable communities depend.
This, says International Rivers, could make the difference between marginal livelihoods and famine for the tens of thousands of already vulnerable people who depend on the lake for their livelihoods.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Negotiations Matter

 by Betsy Petrick

Does Ethiopia have the right to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) or does Egypt have the right to prevent this from happening? To get a sense of what’s at stake for each of these countries and what can be done, we interviewed two experts—one from Egypt and the other from Ethiopia.  Mohamed Nasr Allam, the Cairo-based expert, is the Former Minister of Irrigation in Egypt and Professor of Water Resources Engineering at Cairo University.  Wondwossen Michago Seide, the Addis Ababa-based expert, is a former Researcher at the Nile Basin Discourse Forum.

The Nile River snakes its way through eastern Africa, covering more than 4,100 miles, draining an estimated area of close to 1.3 million square miles, and providing income to more than 160 million people.  The Nile flows through 11 states, but two countries, Ethiopia and Egypt, have the strongest links to the River.  Ethiopia is the source of the tributary, the Blue Nile, which provides 80-85% of Nile River water.  After flowing north, the Nile empties from Egypt into the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Sharing the Nile waters has long been a complicated negotiation process.  The downstream country, Egypt, has historically relied on colonial international agreements and was awarded the majority of the Nile waters.  The upstream country, Ethiopia, was excluded from these agreements.
The IMF ranks Ethiopia as one of the five fastest growing economies in the world.  Its economy has grown at an average rate of 10.8% per year in 2003/04 – 2012/13.  One of the government’s key goals has been the construction of massive industrial and infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile, the Nile satisfies 97% of Egypt’s water needs. Prior to Ethiopia’s diversion of water from the Blue Nile for the GERD, a 2012 study predicted Egypt will be in a state of water poverty by 2025.  With the ability to generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity, GERD will be Africa’s largest dam when it’s completed in 2018.
The impact will be felt in Egypt, as Minister Allam says the GERD is “expected to reduce the Nile River inflow to Egypt about 5.0-7.0 bcm/year on average and the hydropower of Aswan reservoir by about 30-40% on average (about 1,000 MW/year).”  In addition to the GERD, Ethiopia will add three other dams to the Nile River: the Border, Mabil, and Kara Dod dams, which are not part of the current negotiations.  Allam writes “the impacts of these three dams will be about 1.5-2.0 times the GERD.”
This could pose a dire problem for Egyptians, as Allam says “the per capita share of water in Egypt is less than 625 CM/year, and the  annual food gap is 7 billion dollars. Deficiency in drinking water exists in most of the coastal cities and remote villages, and deficit in irrigation water exists in the tail ends of most irrigation canals. ”
Ethiopia has been able to unilaterally start building the GERD because of what Seide calls “a power shift”.  He explains further by writing “Egypt used to be considered a hydro-hegemon, now the Nile Basin is without a hegemon but with parallel powers.   With the wise decision of self-financing the dam, Ethiopia silenced the international community-biased interference and curtailed the Egyptian diplomatic clout.”
Ethiopia’s main focus is economic development, which is demonstrated through its decision to build the GERD.  Meanwhile, Egypt’s national security is inextricably tied to its water security.   Ethiopia’s decision to build the GERD threatens Egypt’s water resources, thus possibly causing food and water shortages, as well as public health problems.  Clearly, this could  further destabilize an already unstable Egypt and cause riots, if not more.  Ultimately, this could bring about a further destabilization of the Middle Eas