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Nile dam row: Egypt fumes as Ethiopia celebrates

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The Nile is seen as Egypt’s lifeblood – without its waters the country fears for its survival

As Ethiopia celebrated rains which began filling a controversial dam on a tributary of the River Nile, Egypt was fuming.

The North African nation had long been opposed to any development on the Nile upstream that could reduce the amount of water it receives from the river and has regarded the Ethiopian project as an existential threat.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), which has been in construction since 2011, is now holding back water – and contains 4.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the Blue Nile’s water after this season’s rains.

This is despite Egypt’s insistence that no filling should take place without a legally binding agreement about how the process will be managed.

In another four to six years the reservoir, which sits behind what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric plant when it comes into operation, is expected to reach 74bcm.

Satellite pictures from earlier in July showed the dam filling up:

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A large reservoir is beginning to form behind the dam

12 July 2020

Satellite image showing the River Nile from above in northwestern Ethiopia, 12 July

26 June 2020

Satellite image showing the River Nile from above in northwestern Ethiopia, 26 June

Egypt and Ethiopia, along with Sudan through which the Blue Nile also flows, have been negotiating for the best part of a decade, but all the while the dam has been built.

They signed a declaration of principles in 2015 which spoke about the “spirit of co-operation”, but Egypt feels that has been missing.

In the past year, it has invested time and political capital by lobbying at the highest international level and seeking help from the US and the UN, but to no avail.

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US president’s office

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The US tried, but failed, to get Egypt and Ethiopia to sign up to an agreement

Egypt appears to have lost that battle.

It has failed to force Ethiopia to abide by what it saw as long-standing international convention requiring upstream countries to consult the downstream states before embarking on projects of this magnitude.

At this point it is hard to imagine what else Egypt could possibly do today other than acquiesce and do as much damage limitation as possible. However, a military option has never been explicitly ruled out.

The Egyptian leadership has repeatedly said it remains committed to resolution through negotiation. But it usually adds the caveat that “all options remain on the table” – a phrase that often alludes to possible conflict.

The government has repeatedly described the issue of the Gerd project as a matter of life and death. This will be especially true if there is a substantial reduction of the amount of the water that reaches Egypt as a result of the dam.

Explore the Nile with 360 video

a 360-degree version of the Damming the Nile VR series from BBC News

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Alastair Leithead and his team travelled in 2018 from the Blue Nile’s source to the sea – through Ethiopia and Sudan into Egypt.

But now, with the filling a reality the Egyptian government has tried to put a brave face on things.

Officially, it said that Egypt remained committed to the current diplomatic process which is being handled by the African Union, and repeated its old mantra that it will not accept unilateral action from Ethiopia.

Water poverty

It has also insisted that any future agreement must endorse what it sees as its established Nile rights to 55bcm of water from the river.

On average 49bcm of water flows through the Blue Nile tributary a year and Ethiopia has consistently refused to concede to giving Egypt a commitment to a specific amount that it will allow to flow through the dam. It sees Egypt’s demands as a legacy of agreements that were made without its involvement.

Egypt’s official response betrayed powerlessness rather than resolve.

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Media captionRos Atkins on…why can’t Egypt and Ethiopia agree on the Nile dam?

The stakes have never been higher for the country.

Describing the Gerd as an existential threat is not hyperbole. Egypt is an arid country and is seen as very water poor.

The World Bank classifies water scarcity as when there is less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person a year. In Egypt, the figure is 550 cubic metre per person annually, according to the government.

Just take a look at the map, where 90% of its 100 million population are squeezed into the narrow Nile valley, 6% of the country’s total area, beset by vast deserts on both sides.

‘Outmanoeuvred’

The Nile provides Egyptians with their primary source of water, for both drinking and agriculture.

Its current annual share of the Nile waters, the now endangered 55bcm, already falls far short of its needs.

This explains that while on an official level Egypt has so far exercised verbal restraint, the media and commentators have not held back.

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Egypt says the waters of the Nile are vital for its agricultural sector

To them, Ethiopia had used the drawn out negotiations to blindside the Egyptians while creating facts on the ground to exercise total control over the river.

A triumphalist tweet celebrating the first year’s filling of the Gerd by Ethiopia Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew – which read in part “the river became a lake… the Nile is ours” – particularly enflamed passions.

It confirmed what Egyptians had long feared and some replied with all sorts of threats.

An Egyptian columnist begrudgingly acknowledged that Ethiopia had outmanoeuvred his country, but it is not over yet, Imad-al-Din Husayn wrote in the daily Shorouq newspaper, in an effort to reassure his readers.

“The Ethiopians refuse to believe that without the Nile we would die, literally. They have many rivers and receive around 950bcm of rain water annually. We receive a paltry 55bcm, half of what we actually need, which is also half of what their livestock consumes annually,” he added in exasperation and summing up the imbalance that many Egyptians feel.

Diplomatic wrangle

On its part Egypt has launched several water management schemes, which include the recycling of waste water in agriculture, desalination plants, and an ambition program to change traditional forms of irrigation to the more water saving method of drip-irrigation.

But the argument about Egypt’s water poverty is perhaps its strongest card in the diplomatic wrangle, if it can be used to galvanise international support.

Apart from a short advert made in several languages, the Egyptian administrations has so far failed to launch a concerted information campaign to win over global backing.

More about the mega dam:

Both in sub-Saharan Africa and even in the US, the Ethiopians appear to have fared much better.

The current chairperson of the African Union is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Many Egyptians believe that South Africa is biased in favour of Ethiopia, which does not augur well for the talks.

If these fail to produce a satisfactory result, Egypt believes it can take the issue back to the UN Security Council for a resolution that ties the hands of Ethiopia.

But it is far from certain that it can secure the support of all the five permanent members.

Recent reports have suggested that both China and Russia will oppose such a move, because they do not want to set a precedent as they both have their own river disputes with downstream neighbours.

Failure to bridge the gap between Egypt and Ethiopia could spell disaster for both.

Turmoil in Egypt as a result of drought and potential mass displacement could have far reaching consequences across the whole of North Africa and Europe. And an armed conflict between two of Africa’s largest and greatest nations should be a scary prospect not just for the Africans, but for the whole world.





Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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Number of people in employment in UK fell unexpectedly in March | Business and Economy News

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The drop in the number of employees on payrolls indicates scarring of the economy after three COVID lockdowns.

The U.K. labor market weakened unexpectedly, with company payrolls falling for the first time in four months and more people dropping out of the workforce.

The number of employees on payrolls fell 56,000 in March, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday. The jobless rate fell to 4.9% in the quarter through February because 80,000 people became economically inactive, indicating they stopped looking for work.

The figures indicate scarring to the economy from three successive coronavirus lockdowns that forced most shops, restaurants and entertainment venues to close. Those segments all suffered big declines in payrolled employment despite Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s effort to protect jobs with furlough payments, leaving overall employment about 800,000 below where it was before the pandemic struck.

“The bigger story is the continued crisis for young people,” said Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies. “Youth long-term unemployment has hit a five-year high this morning, while youth employment is still falling even as it starts to rise for every other age group.”

This month’s figures confound recent surveys suggesting that companies restarted hiring in the weeks before lockdown loosened. The ONS said the number of job vacancies jumped 16% in March alone to 650,000, and that may feed through to higher employment in the coming months. Sectors including hospitality, retail and the arts had big increases.

“The jobs market has been broadly stable in recent months after the major shock of last spring,” said Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS. “With the prospect of businesses reopening, there was a marked rise in job vacancies in March, especially in sectors such as hospitality.”

Unemployment claims rose 10,100 in March after a revised increase of 67,300 the previous month. Basic earnings growth, which has been inflated by lower-paying jobs dropping out of the labor market, was 4.4% in the quarter through February compared with 4.3% in the previous three-month period.

The Treasury and Bank of England expect a rapid recovery from the worst recession in three centuries starting in the middle of the year when most lockdown rules are set to lapse. Shops and restaurants started opening earlier this month.

Employment fell by 73,000 in the quarter thorough February, less than half the decline of 145,000 that had been anticipated by economists. At the end of February, 4.65 million workers were on furlough, down from a peak of 8.8 million at the start of the pandemic in April 2020.

The OBR expects the jobless rate to peak at 6.5% in the fourth quarter, or about 2.2 million people. That’s less than previously estimated and significantly below the peak of recessions in previous decades.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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‘Uninformed’ CSOs Frustrating EACOP Project Financing – Oil and Gas Expert

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Denis Kakembo, the Managing Partner and leader of Corporate and Tax Practice at Cristal Advocates, has revealed that the continuous uninformed statements uttered by a section of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are frustrating the financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

Cristal Advocates is a corporate and commercial law firm offering full scale legal services with an emphasis on tax, energy, infrastructure and business support.

On Sunday April 11, the Ugandan government led by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, his Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu and two oil companies; Total E&P Uganda Limited (TEPU) and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) signed four different agreements to pave way for the construction of the USD 3.5bn 1,440 kilometer EACOP from Hoima (Uganda) to Tanga Tanzania.

The agreements include; Host Government Agreement, Intergovernmental Agreement, Shareholders’ Agreement, Tariffs and Transport Agreement, Project Framework Agreement and Several Financing Agreements.

TEPU is the majority shareholder in the deal with 72% followed by Uganda with 15%, CNOOC with 8% while Tanzania have 5%. The project is however expected to be funded with borrowing from different banks, which have opted out of the deal.

In a March 18th press release issueed by Inclusive Development International, banks provided statements that they will not support the construction of EACOP, after an open letter endorsed by 263 organizations from around the world was sent to 25 banks considered most likely to be approached for financing.

Speaking to journalists at the sidelines of the ACME media training on oil and gas in Kampala on Monday, Kakembo wondered why CSOs have chosen to “just make noise without reading and understanding what’s on ground.”

“The perception people have towards oil and gas sector is old fashioned. Its true in the past oil companies didn’t behave well and this was in so many countries where they operated and people did not benefit so there is that historical bias which is still being held by people to date,” he said.

Adding: “The oil and gas industry has tremendously transformed over the period of time there is a lot of honor for an international law level perspective to ensure that people benefit and protect the environment and there are a lot of instruments that can be used to achieve this but these instruments can only be used when the CSOs understand and appreciate what they are.”

CSOs, he said, sometimes approach these issues on a perspective of an activist mind, “but not from a mindset of an informed person on what is taking place and yet if they understand fully what is taking place, they can serve their people in terms of articulating their concerns.”

“I would urge CSOs to take time, dig in and take more information which is readily available to boost and build their capacities.”

“Whenever there is an economic activity or project taking place, you would expect that people will be affected but there are other ways of mitigating that like; is the process transparent, are people being compensated, these are not very difficult issues, which can be addressed,” he said.

The said EACOP project is expected to kick off in six months’ time which Kakembo noted will be the final kickoff of each and everything including the declaration of Final Investment Decision (FID) by oil companies.

The post ‘Uninformed’ CSOs Frustrating EACOP Project Financing – Oil and Gas Expert first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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IAE issues ‘dire warning’ as CO2 emissions set to soar in 2021 | Climate News

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The IAE predicts that carbon dioxide emissions could rise to 33 billion tonnes in 2021 – the second largest rise in emissions ever.

Global carbon emissions are set to jump by five percent marking the largest single increase in more than a decade as the economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic is “anything but sustainable” for the climate.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday its annual Global Energy Review predicting that carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 levels.

“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

Birol called the Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday and Friday a critical moment for nations to pledge immediate actions before the UN Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.

“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” said Birol.

In early March, the IEA’s chief stressed that the level of carbon emissions in December was higher than the same month the previous year as economies started reopening following coronavirus lockdowns, a figure that the IEA’s chief said was a “stark warning” to leaders around the world.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on Monday to back up their commitments to fight climate change with “concrete immediate action”, including making as their “absolute priority” that no more coal power plants will be built.

Last year, when power use dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.

The IEA’s annual review analysed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come into action.

Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said.

Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow in 2021, with both coal and gas set to rise above 2019 levels.

The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60 percent, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydro power. More than 80 percent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China.

Coal use in the US and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.

The IEA expects both solar and wind to post their largest annual rises ever, at around 17 percent.

It expects renewables will provide 30 percent of electricity generation worldwide in 2021, their biggest share ever and up from less than 27 percent in 2019.

China is expected to account for almost half of that increase.

While demand for oil is rebounding strongly, the IEA expects it to stay below the pre-pandemic level as the aviation sector struggles to recover owing to a slow and patchy vaccine rollout.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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