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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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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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