Ethiopia inaugurates dam to double energy output

A partial view shows Gibe III hydroelectric dam during its inauguration in Shoma Yero village in Southern Nations in Ethiopia, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 18 December 2016
0

Ethiopia inaugurates dam to double energy output

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia on Saturday inaugurated a hydroelectric dam that aims to double the country’s electricity output, but which critics say is a threat to locals and a UNESCO-listed lake in Kenya.
The Gibe III dam, which reaches 243 meters in height, is the third-largest dam in Africa and the biggest in a series built along the Omo River.
When it comes fully online, the Gibe III is expected to produce 1,870 megawatts of power, enough to sell energy abroad including to neighboring Kenya. The dam has been generating electricity for about a year.
“This hydroelectricity plant, with other ongoing projects, fulfils our domestic power needs and will be provided for foreign markets,” Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in a speech inaugurating the dam.
But environmentalists and rights groups warn the project will dramatically decrease water levels downstream all the way to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, which derives 80 percent of its resources from the river.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people who make their living in the Omo River valley and on Turkana, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, would be affected, they say.
UNESCO has previously condemned the project and Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian government of uprooting people from the Omo Valley to free up land for state-run sugar cane plantations.
“The project has overcome challenges such as financial and environment issues,” Desalegn said. “Some people who think they have a concern for the environment have been downgrading the project rather than being reasonable.”
Project boosters say the dam will allow authorities to better regulate the flow of the Omo, which spools out over 700 km. They also deny the dam is primarily a way to ensure a steady flow of water to irrigate cotton and sugar cane plantations.
Gibe III, located about 350 km southwest of Addis Ababa, took nine years to build and cost 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion), with 60 percent of financing coming from the Chinese export credit agency China Exim Bank.
Ethiopia was the world’s fastest growing economy last year at 10.2 percent, however the International Monetary Fund estimates that the worst drought in 30 years is likely to see this plummet to 4.5 percent in 2016.
With no natural gas or oil reserves of its own, the Horn of Africa country is banking on renewable energy to help foster energy independence and economic growth.
Its Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, which is slated to be Africa’s largest-ever dam, is expected to produce 6,000 megawatts — tantamount to six nuclear reactors — when it is completed in 2017.
The Blue and the White Nile rivers converge in Khartoum and from there run north into Egypt as the Nile.
But the project has poisoned relations with Egypt, which is almost totally reliant on the Nile for agriculture and drinking water, and fears the dam will hit its supplies.


Cyclone death toll in southeast India hits 33: official

Updated 3 min 33 sec ago
0

Cyclone death toll in southeast India hits 33: official

NEW DELHI: The death toll from a cyclone that battered India’s eastern coast has reached 33, a disaster official said Sunday, as authorities assessed the damage caused by the powerful storm.
Cyclone Gaja, which packed winds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, had barrelled into Tamil Nadu state after hitting the coast on Friday.
Thousands of trees were felled by winds that destroyed homes and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee to shelters.
“So far 20 men, 11 women, and two children have died due to the cyclone,” said an official with the state disaster management authority, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to media.
“As of now 177,500 people are housed in over 351 camps. Thousands of trees have been uprooted and livestock has also been badly affected,” he told AFP.
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who has announced compensation of $14,000 each to the families of victims, said most deaths were caused by flooding, house collapses and electrocution.
Hundreds of emergency workers have been pressed into service to restore roads and power cables, as the full scale of the disaster becomes clear.
A Navy helicopter and two ships have joined relief efforts in the state, the local government said.
India’s weather department said the cyclonic depression had moved westwards Saturday into the neighboring Kerala state before continuing into the Arabian Sea.
Gaja is the second major storm to hit India’s east coast in recent weeks. Cyclone Titli battered Odisha state in October, killing at least two people.
Storms regularly hit southern India between April and December. Last year, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states.