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.


Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

Updated 19 September 2019

Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

  • Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations
  • The situation forced schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push its Southeast Asian neighbors to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia, its environment minister said on Thursday.
In the past few weeks, Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles.
“I will have a conference call with the ASEAN secretary-general to raise our views and also express our hope for a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level for a long-term solution,” Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference, but did not elaborate on other participants.
All three countries belong to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which set up a regional haze action plan in 1997, but Malaysia thinks the grouping has not done enough to evolve a long-term solution.
Among its efforts to tackle the hazard, Malaysia could pass a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires, but only international cooperation could yield a lasting solution, Yeo added.
“Cloud seeding is only temporary. A law here would only deal with Malaysian companies. What we need is international cooperation for a long-term solution.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said Malaysia was considering a new law to compel its companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad.
Yeo said Malaysia will keep up cloud seeding efforts to bring temporary relief in badly-hit areas. This involves spraying chemicals, such as sodium chloride and magnesium oxide, from aircraft in order to spur rainfall.
Malaysia will also consider deploying drones to help in cloud seeding, Mahathir told a separate news conference.
Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department issued the text of a special plea for divine intervention to disperse the smog, to be recited after weekly prayers on Friday by mosque congregations nationwide.