Ethiopia diverts Blue Nile for disputed dam

Updated 31 May 2013
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Ethiopia diverts Blue Nile for disputed dam

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia has begun diverting the Blue Nile as part of a giant dam project, officials said yesterday, risking potential unease from downstream nations Sudan and Egypt.
The $ 4.2 billion Grand Renaissance Dam hydroelectric project had to divert a short section of the river — one of two major tributaries to the main Nile — to allow the main dam wall to be built.
“To build the dam, the natural course must be dry,” said Addis Tadele, spokesman for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo), a day after a formal ceremony at the construction site.
The natural course of the river was diverted about 550 meters (yards) from its natural course, Addis said, but stressed that water levels would not be affected.
“There is no problem with the river levels,” he added.
The first phase of construction is expected to be complete in three years, with a capacity of 700 megawatts.
Once complete, the dam will have a capacity of 6,000 megawatts.
Both Sudan and Egypt, arid nations that rely heavily on the Nile for water including for agriculture, are extremely sensitive about projects that could alter the flow of the river.
However, EEPCo. insists the project will not impact downstream needs, claiming the dam will provide “highly regulated outflows” by reducing floods at peak times and providing more water during otherwise low flows.
The dam project, in Ethiopia’s northwestern Benishangul-Gumuz region near the border with Sudan, was launched in April 2011 by late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Funding is being raised publicly, with the state raising funds locally, and no external financing has been provided.
Ethiopia is constructing a series of dams in order to produce hydroelectric power for local consumption and export.
EEPCo. has plans to establish transmission lines to neighboring countries, including Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti.
One of Ethiopia’s deputy Prime Ministers, Demeke Mekonnen, officially launched the river diversion Tuesday, alongside EEPCo. chief Mihret Dibebe.
When completed the dam wall will stretch almost 1.8 kilometers (about one mile) in length and 145 meters (475 feet) in height.


Gangsters attack train passengers in Hong Kong after night of violent protests

Updated 27 min 18 sec ago
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Gangsters attack train passengers in Hong Kong after night of violent protests

  • Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village
  • The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s opposition Democratic Party is investigating attacks by suspected triad gangsters on train passengers on Sunday, after a night of violence opened new fronts in the political crisis now deepening across the city.
Screams rang out when men, clad in white t-shirts and some armed with poles, flooded into the rural Yuen Long station and stormed a train, attacking passengers, according to footage taken by commuters and Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.
Some passengers had been at an anti-government march and the attack came after several thousand activists surrounded China’s representative office in the city, later clashing with police.
Lam, who was injured in the attack, said he was angry about a slow police response after he alerted them to the trouble, government-funded broadcaster RTHK reported.
Lam said it took police more than an hour to arrive after he alerted them and they had failed to protect the public, allowing the triads to run rampant. The party is now investigating.
“Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?,” he asked reporters.
Police said early on Monday they had not made any arrests at the station or during a follow-up search of a nearby village but were still investigating.
Yau Nai-keung, Yuen Long assistant district police commander, told reporters that an initial police patrol had to wait for more reinforcements given a situation involving more than 100 people.
Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village but Yau said police saw no weapons when they arrived.
“We can’t say you have a problem because you are dressed in white and we have to arrest you. We will treat them fairly no matter which camp they are in,” Yau said. Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of sometimes violent protests for more than two months in its most serious crisis since Britain handed the Asian financial hub back to Chinese rule in 1997.
Protesters are demanding the full withdrawal of a bill to allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, fearing it would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
They are also demanding independent inquiries into the use of police force against protesters.
On Sunday police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse activists on the edge of Hong Kong’s glittering financial district after they had fled China’s Liaison Office.
The Chinese government has condemned the action, which saw signs and a state symbol daubed with graffiti.
The unrest in Hong Kong marks the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack, with one in a critical condition. Some 13 people were injured after the clashes on Hong Kong island, one seriously, the authority said.
Some police had been injured in the clashes after protesters hurled bricks, smoke grenades and petrol bombs, said a police statement.