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‘Means our death’: Egyptian farmers fear effect of Ethiopia dam | News

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In the winter of 1964, Makhluf Abu Kassem was born in an agricultural community newly created at the far end of Egypt’s Fayoum Oasis. His parents were among the village’s first settlers, moving there three years earlier from the Nile Valley to carve out a new life as farmers. 

It was a bright and prosperous start. The region was fertile and for 40 years they made their living growing corn, cotton and wheat.

Now 55, Abu Kassem looks out at what is left of his shrivelling farm, surrounded by barren wasteland that was once his neighbour’s farmland – victims of dwindling irrigation in recent years. 

“There used to be enough water to make all this area green … Now, it is as you see,” he said. 

In the past, he and other villagers irrigated their farms through canals linked to the Nile River, Egypt’s lifeline since ancient times. It provides the country with a thin, richly fertile stretch of green land through the desert. 

But years of mismanagement, corruption and increasing population led to the loss of at least 75 percent of farmland in the village and the surrounding areas, according to Abdel-Fattah el-Aweidi, head of the Gazaer Qouta Agriculture Association overseeing the area. 

Now, Abu Kassem fears a dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the Nile’s main tributary, could add to the severe water shortages already hitting his village if no deal is struck to ensure a continued flow of water. 

“The dam means our death,” he said.

Farmers sit under the shade of a tree surrounded by barren wasteland that was once fertile and green Qouta town, Fayoum, Egypt [AP]

Fight for resources

The exact effect of the dam on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan remains unknown. For Egyptian farmers, the daunting prospect adds a new worry on top of the other causes of mounting water scarcity.

Egypt is already spreading its water resources thin. Its booming population, now more than 100 million, has one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at about 550 cubic metres per year, compared with a global average of 1,000.

Ethiopia says the electricity generated by its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is a crucial lifeline to bring its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty. 

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90 percent of its water supply, including drinking water, industrial use and irrigation, fears a devastating effect if the dam is operated without taking its needs into account. 

It wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic metres of water from the Blue Nile while Ethiopia fills the dam’s giant reservoir, according to an irrigation official. That would be less than the 55 billion cubic metres Egypt usually gets from the Nile, mostly from the Blue Nile.

The shortage would be filled by water stored behind Egypt’s Aswan High Dam in Lake Nasser, which has a gross capacity of 169 billion cubic metres of water. 

Egypt Nile Waters

Egyptian farmer and shepherd Abu Mazen walks his sheep in Second Village, Qouta town, Fayoum, Egypt [AP] 

“If the dam is filled and operated without coordination between Egypt and Ethiopia, its effect will be destructive to the whole Egyptian society and the state will not be able to address its repercussions,” said Egypt’s former Irrigation Minister Mohammed Nasr Allam. 

It is estimated that a permanent drop of five billion cubic meters of Nile water to Egypt would cause the loss of one million acres (400,000 hectares) of farmland, or 12 percent of the country’s total, he said. 

Sudan says the project could endanger its own dams, though it would also see benefits from the Ethiopian dam, including cheap electricity and reduced flooding. 

Abu Kassem’s village, with the bland bureaucratic name of Second Village, was one of multiple agricultural communities created in Egypt in the 1960s by the socialist government of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Built on reclaimed desert, it depends for irrigation on the Yusuf Canal, which flows from the Nile through Fayoum, fanning out in a series of channels. 

The villagers enumerated the variety of crops they used to farm, ranging from cotton and vegetables to wheat and grains. 

Now, most of the village’s lands are barren. Almost all the Nile water that used to reach it is diverted into other agricultural projects or used for the growing population before it reaches Second Village, farmers say. Similar shortages of water have grown more common even in communities in the Nile Valley and the Delta, where farmers also face increasing salinity. 

To irrigate, the village farmers now depend on wastewater from nearby towns, which is a mix of agricultural drainage and sewage. 

On Abu Kassem’s 16-acre farm (6.5 hectares), only a single acre is now cultivated. His family tried growing corn, but the plants died. They, like most others in the area, switched to growing olive trees, which use less water. But even those suffer. 

“These trees haven’t seen water in over 40 days,” Abu Kassem said, showing a shrivelled fruit.

With the water waning, many of the village’s 12,000 people have left, including Abu Kassem’s three brothers and his four sons. 

Ihsan Abdel-Azim, 53, the wife of one of Abu Kassem’s brothers, moved with her family to work as doormen in Cairo in 2001. 

“We had no choice at the time,” the mother of five said, sitting among her grandchildren during a visit to the village earlier this month. “Cultivating the farm became insufficient to feed my children. All roads led that way.”

Egypt Nile Waters

Farmer Makhluf Abu Kassem stands on a land that was once fertile, in Second Village, Qouta town, Fayoum, Egypt [AP]

Deadlocked talks

Years-long negotiations among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia failed to reach a deal on the dam. The dispute reached a tipping point earlier this week when Ethiopia announced it completed the first stage of the filling of the dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir. 

That sparked fear and confusion in Sudan and Egypt. Both have repeatedly insisted Ethiopia must not start the fill without reaching a deal first. 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the filling occurred naturally, “without bothering or hurting anyone else”, from torrential rains flooding the Blue Nile. 

Sticking points in the talks have been how much water Ethiopia will release downstream during the filling if a multi-year drought occurs and how the three countries will resolve any future disputes. Egypt and Sudan have pushed for a binding agreement, while Ethiopia insists on non-binding guidelines. 

In recent years, the Egyptian government accelerated its efforts to modernise the country’s irrigation systems, including lining canals and encouraging farmers to adopt drip and spray irrigation, which use less water. 

The government also slashed cultivation of water-consuming crops, such as rice, and threatened to fine farmers who grow such crops in areas not specified for its cultivation. 

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said in televised comments late in July his government allocated more than $62.5bn for investments to preserve water until 2037. 

He reiterated warnings that the Nile is “a matter of life” for Egypt and acknowledged the anxiety gripping the country. 

“I am also concerned,” he declared.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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