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
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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.


Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

Updated 23 September 2018
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Britain’s opposition Labour backs new election over Brexit impasse

  • Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a ‘People’s Vote,’ or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU
  • Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as ‘for the birds’
LIVERPOOL: Britain’s opposition Labour Party prefers a new election to a second referendum on Brexit, its leader said on Sunday, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May whose plans for a deal with the EU have hit an impasse.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has so far resisted calls to back a “People’s Vote,” or new referendum on the decision to quit the EU.
But the political landscape has changed since May was ambushed by the European Union on Thursday over her plans for Brexit — the biggest shift in British policy for more than four decades.
With talk of a new election swirling after May’s “Chequers” plan was all but shredded at an EU summit in Austria last week and chances of Britain exiting the bloc without a deal rising, Labour is under pressure to start setting the Brexit agenda.
Corbyn, a veteran euroskeptic who in 1975 voted “No” to Britain’s membership of the then-European Community, said that while he would listen to a debate about any possible second vote on Britain’s membership, he preferred a snap election if May failed to get a deal that Labour could support in parliament.
“Our preference would be for a general election and we can then negotiate our future relationship with Europe but let’s see what comes out of conference,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying Labour was ready to vote against any deal.
“We would vote it down if it didn’t meet our tests in order to send the government, if it is still in office, straight back to the negotiating table and if there is a general election and we are in office we would go straight to the negotiating table.”
Corbyn’s close ally, Len McCluskey, leader of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, told the BBC any such second referendum “shouldn’t be on: ‘do we want to go back into the European Union?’” as that had been answered in the 2016 referendum.
Britain is to exit the EU in March. After weeks of both sides making positive noises about prospects of clinching a divorce deal and their future trading relationship, the mood turned sour on Thursday in Salzburg, Austria, when the bloc’s leaders, one by one, came out to criticize May’s Chequers plans.
A tacit agreement to try to offer her some support before she heads to what is going to be a difficult annual conference of her governing Conservative Party later this month was broken by some British diplomatic missteps.
May says she will hold her nerve in the talks, pressing the EU to come up with an alternative proposal to her Chequers plan, named after the prime minister’s country residence where a deal was hashed out with her top ministers in July.
But the impasse with the EU has prompted some to predict an early election, with local media reporting that May’s team has begun contingency planning for a snap vote in November to save both Brexit and her job.
Brexit minister Dominic Raab again ruled out a new election, describing the suggestion as “for the birds.” He said Britain would not “flit from plan to plan like some sort of diplomatic butterfly.”
“We are going to be resolute about this,” Raab added.
While saying she will stick to her guns, May might have little chance but to change tack after a party conference where the deep divisions over Europe that have riven her Conservatives for decades will be in plain sight.
A senior pro-EU Conservative lawmaker, Nicky Morgan, said May would have to give ground on trade and customs arrangements to overcome the biggest obstacle to a withdrawal accord — the prevention of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland, a member of the EU.
“I am not sure there is life left in Chequers,” Morgan, chair of parliament’s Treasury Select Committee and a former cabinet minister under May’s predecessor, told Sky News.
“We want to see a deal. The question I think that has to be answered now by the government, by the EU leaders, is what room for movement is there, how do we move on from where we ended up last week?”