Ethiopia’s Nile Dam
Last month the 2020 Visions blog post considered sustainability in Africa along with other areas. It considered the UNA Climate 2020 report which noted that Ethiopia is experiencing much economic growth which is largely sustainable. Part of that growth is from large sustainable infrastructure projects around the country. This month’s blog post considers the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance dam but, like all so called sustainable projects, there can be unforeseen consequences on the environment and elsewhere. In the case of the dam it may be environmental change, sediment build up, reduced water flow downstream of the dam and several other impacts including political consequences. Egypt is concerned at the scale of the dam and the impact it may have on the water supply of that country. Ethiopia hopes to reduce flood risk downstream of the new dam. Locally around 5,000 to 20,000 people are likely to be relocated as a huge lake forms behind the dam.
The Ethiopian Grand Renaissance dam, which will generate 6000 megawatts of electricity, is under construction. Construction began on this major infrastructure project in 2011. The plan to generate clean renewable hydro-electricity is causing a political stir in the region. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) is being constructed near the Blue Nile River, Ethiopia. Egypt, whose people rely upon the water from the Nile, has objected to the involvement of a visiting delegation from Saudi Arabia. Egyptian journalists, professors and media personalities all condemned the visit and urged Saudi Arabia not to get involved in the massive construction project. The $5 billion project which is being financed by Ethiopian government bonds and private donations has the power to transform Ethiopia into an African power house. Relations between Egypt and Ethiopia have not been good since 2013 and the reason is mainly over the disputed water resources from the Nile.
Water resources in the region are likely to be contested given that so many countries rely on the water from the Nile river. Egypt uses the water for irrigation and for the water supply in Cairo – its capital city. Water resources have always been an issue in this arid part of the world. Historically there was a 1929 water agreement to allow countries to have a share of water from the Nile. In the late 1950s the agreement was renegotiated. Water will always be critical in this region and that importance will increase with a changing climate. For further information on the project and some of the potential political ramifications see this International Business Times article
CrossRail: The New Cross London Railway
At the end of 2018 the new CrossRail service is to begin. The new electric railway crosses under the centre of London and will open up many new passenger journey opportunities. The £14.8 billion Crossrail project is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project and creates 42 kilometres of new railway tunnels under London. The project has been built by an international team who have come from many different countries.
In December 2018 the CrossRail line, also known as the Elizabeth line, opens between Paddington station and Abbey Wood in South East London. It will extend beyond Paddington station to Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 to the west of the city. There will be three routes that initiate the CrossRail network services as follows:
- Paddington (Elizabeth line station) to Abbey Wood via central London
- Paddington (mainline station) to Heathrow (Terminals 2, 3 and 4)
- Liverpool Street (mainline station) to Shenfield
During May 2019 direct services operate from Paddington to Shenfield and Paddington to Abbey Wood. There will initially be fifteen trains per hour travelling in new tunnels under the centre of London. This number will increase to 24 trains per hour providing a very high frequency service later on.
The line will change the famous Underground map for good and will form a new purple colour line that crosses the centre of London. The Underground map has continued to evolve over the years since Harry Beck introduced the first iconic map back in 1933 (this transport for London link reviews the history of the map). This image shows the proposed new map:
The CrossRail tunnels are going to be used to trial the generation of electricity by means of grids of lamellae-covered plastic sheets that generate power from the winds that follow trains in the tunnels. Piezo-electric textiles will generate power from the winds. There are installations of the lamellae-covered plastic sheets within tunnels on the new Crossrail routes. The draft in the tunnels causes the protrusions to flutter which then generates electricity. Whilst the energy generated is in smaller quantities when compared to traditional wind power solutions or solar there is some benefit from this new “free” energy generation system. Further details can be reviewed in this Wired article.
When services do start later in the year they will be operated by a consortium of companies with a stake held by the Chinese government. The New York Times proclaims “Beijing will also operate the new Crossrail Line, which will start its central London services in December”. See the article that reflects upon the national ownership of the UK’s railway since privatisation in the 1990s.
CrossRail will increase London’s rail capacity by around 10% and will offer many new journey opportunities for people travelling to and across the UK capital city. Estimates suggest that the project may bring an estimated £42bn to the economy of the UK. It will certainly improve journey times upon slow Underground journey times which are due to old infrastructure originally built in the nineteenth century. The Underground network has stops at many closely located stations. With CrossRail people making east – west journeys will be able to travel across London quicker than they would have previously without having to change from rail to Underground at the London terminals.
Both CrossRail and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam are examples of sustainable infrastructure projects that involve many nationalities and have had or will have impacts much beyond their sites.
2017 Was One of the Hottest Years on Record
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has confirmed 2017 to be among the three hottest years ever recorded. It was the hottest El Niño year. The global average temperature of the year was 1.1 Celsius above the pre-industrial temperature record. The cause is “continuing long-term climate change [from] increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases”.
The year 2016 is still the warmest year on record (it was 1.2 Celsius above pre-industrial era). The Paris climate agreement is aiming to limit global temperatures to below 2 Celsius or, ideally, to an increase of up to no more than 1.5 Celsius above the pre-industrial average temperature. Given this data from the World Meteorological Organization, it appears that the 1.5 Celsius target could soon be exceeded. The report highlights 17 out of the 18 hottest years on record have been since 2000. It also notes the degree of warming over the last 3 years has been “exceptional”. Linked to the increased warmth has been more severe weather around the world which has included some extremes such as hurricanes. The New York Times suggests that 2017 natural disaster losses was in the region of $330 billion according to the reinsurer Munich Re. 2017 was second only to 2011 which included the Japanese tsunami damage. The insurer noted volatile conditions are likely to become more common.
The WMO combines global data from many countries and uses reanalysis techniques to combine data from across the world. The data uses millions of meteorological and marine observations with models to produce a complete reanalysis of the atmospheric conditions. Data from satellites is also used and the method allows predictions even in regions that are “data-sparse” such as the Polar Regions. Further details of the WMO report can be read on the WMO web site press release.
The WMO data confirms what we already know – there is now an even greater need to take action to avoid more warming.