Minister for the Indian state of Tamil Nadu Sellur K Raju, government officials and civic workers use thermocol polystyrene sheets to attempt to cover the reservoir at the Vaigai Dam in Madurai. AFP Photo
Minister for the Indian state of Tamil Nadu Sellur K Raju, government officials and civic workers use thermocol polystyrene sheets to attempt to cover the reservoir at the Vaigai Dam in Madurai. AFP PShow more

Water security could define future conflict



As part of Ethiopia’s plans to assert its influence on the African continent, the country is getting ready to deliver a major new hydroelectric project on the Nile. The project could transform the east African country into an energy exporter and bolster Addis Ababa’s regional prowess. There is only one drawback and it is a big one. The project is predicated on a major dam that will curtail the flow of the Nile’s waters downstream into Egypt and Sudan.

Receiving more than 60 per cent of its water supply from the Nile, Egypt is increasingly anxious about Ethiopia's plans to use the river for its hydroelectric projects. While Cairo and Addis Ababa have signed a mutual "do-no-harm" pact, it is not clear if cool heads will continue to prevail should the river start to go dry. In a region long associated with drought and famine, can leaders reach an equitable solution to the world's most precious resource?

The deliberations will be closely followed by outside observers because this issue affects the entire planet. After years of significant drought, the state of California enjoyed one of its wettest winters on record this year. Previously bone-dry dams are now overflowing, which has given researchers the opportunity to experiment with water-saving measures, including the use of physical items placed on the surface of the water that reduce the rate of water evaporation.

This idea was recently put to the test in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu with less than happy results. At the behest of an Indian politician, polystyrene sheets were placed on the water in a dam – only to fly away in the wind. Footage of the incident spread like wildfire on the internet but the politician is correct in underlining the need for everyone to start thinking outside of box to solve the issue of water security.

The reservoir created by Ethiopia’s dam could take up to 15 years to reach capacity. In that time, Ethiopia and its neighbours must reach an agreement on sharing the Nile’s precious resource that ensures the needs of Egypt and Sudan continue to be met. If the agreement is successful, it could be a blueprint for handling future disagreements over water around the world. Safeguarding water resources will require broad political, cultural and social cooperation across borders and regions. No one is exempt from this challenge.

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It’ll be summer in the city as car show tries to move with the times

If 2008 was the year that rocked Detroit, 2019 will be when Motor City gives its annual car extravaganza a revamp that aims to move with the times.

A major change is that this week's North American International Auto Show will be the last to be held in January, after which the event will switch to June.

The new date, organisers said, will allow exhibitors to move vehicles and activities outside the Cobo Center's halls and into other city venues, unencumbered by cold January weather, exemplified this week by snow and ice.

In a market in which trends can easily be outpaced beyond one event, the need to do so was probably exacerbated by the decision of Germany's big three carmakers – BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi – to skip the auto show this year.

The show has long allowed car enthusiasts to sit behind the wheel of the latest models at the start of the calendar year but a more fluid car market in an online world has made sales less seasonal.

Similarly, everyday technology seems to be catching up on those whose job it is to get behind microphones and try and tempt the visiting public into making a purchase.

Although sparkly announcers clasp iPads and outline the technical gadgetry hidden beneath bonnets, people's obsession with their own smartphones often appeared to offer a more tempting distraction.

“It's maddening,” said one such worker at Nissan's stand.

The absence of some pizzazz, as well as top marques, was also noted by patrons.

“It looks like there are a few less cars this year,” one annual attendee said of this year's exhibitors.

“I can't help but think it's easier to stay at home than to brave the snow and come here.”

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