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Open flood gates displace two million in Nigeria

Conservationists oppose Laos dam plans
Vientiane, Laos (UPI) Sep 24, 2010 - Laos says it rejects calls for a dam moratorium on the Mekong River because it wants cheap power to develop its economy despite threats to fish habitats. The Southeast Asian nation moved this week to secure regional approval for the first major hydropower plant on its stretch of the lower Mekong in the face of protests from international conservation groups, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Friday. The country's proposed hydropower plant threatens the habitat of the giant Mekong catfish, which can weigh up to 650 pounds, the newspaper said. Catfish as long as small cars and stingrays that weigh more than tigers are threatened by the proposed 2,600-foot dam, but the government said the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks.

"We don't want to be poor anymore," Viraphone Viravong, director general of the country's energy and mines department, said. "If we want to grow, we need this dam." In a submission to the Mekong River Commission, Laos said it wants to build a hydropower plant at Sayabouly in northern Laos to generate foreign exchange income. If approved, about 90 percent of the electricity would be sold to neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Sayabouly is the first of 11 proposed dams on the lower reaches of the Mekong, a river already heavily dammed upstream in China, the Guardian said.
by Staff Writers
Lagos (AFP) Sept 24, 2010
Opened flood gates in northern Nigeria have displaced some two million people, with residents taking shelter in schools and huge swathes of farmland destroyed, a government official said Friday.

The gates were opened in early August following heavy seasonal rains in the north of Africa's most populous nation that have also caused flooding in other northern areas, according to a spokesman for Jigawa state.

"We have about two million people affected," Umar Kyari told AFP, adding that there were no reported deaths in Jigawa, which has a population of about 4.3 million people.

He said the flooding occurred after authorities opened the gates of the Challawa and Tiga dams in neighbouring Kano state to avoid overflowing following heavy rains.

"When the rains became too much they realised the water was too much and opened the dams," he said.

About 90,000 hectares (222,400 acres) of farmland have been washed away, with food and livestock losses estimated at 4.5 billion naira (30 million dollars, 22 million euros), he said.

"Over 5,000 villages in 11 of our 27 local government areas were affected," he said, referring to damage that has occurred over the course of a couple months.

The displaced have moved to higher ground, where they are sheltering in schools, he said.

Kyari said that although the gates are opened almost every year to avoid overflowing and floods wash away villages in the state's low-lying plains, "this year is just very bad".

"This year is so, so devastating," he said by telephone from Dutse, the capital of Jigawa state.

Jigawa is located in the far north of Nigeria along the border with the neighbouring nation of Niger.

Several other states in northern Nigeria have been hit by floods this year.

Earlier this month, officials said heavy rains over the previous weeks had killed at least three people and displaced thousands in northern Nigeria, with entire villages submerged and farms destroyed.

At the time, officials said seven states had been affected by flooding.

The floods have occurred despite forecasts of low rainfall in the north for this year's rainy season from Nigeria's meteorological agency, which had previously warned that more than 12 million people in the region could face food shortages as a result.

earlier related report
Tunnel under San Francisco Bay begun
San Francisco (UPI) Sep 24, 2010 - A project to create a 5-mile-long tunnel under San Francisco Bay to carry billions of gallons of water to Bay Area communities has begun, officials said.

When the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's $4.6 billion project to overhaul the area's water system is completed in 2015, the Bay Division Pipeline 5 will replace two decaying pipelines that now traverse the bay on wooden trestles, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

"These pipelines are old, and they leak," commission general manager Ed Harrington said. "The question is, do we really want to depend on them in a major earthquake? We really count on this system working, even if others fail."

The current water network serves 2.5 million customers in San Francisco, the East Bay and the Peninsula. A failure at the trans-bay pipeline during an earthquake could cut off water to businesses, homes and public service agencies for weeks or even months, officials warn.

"This infrastructure was built in the 1920s and 1930s -- it wasn't meant to last this long," Bob Mues, tunnel project construction manager, said.

"This is state of the art," he said of the new project.

The underground pipeline won't cross any major fault lines, but will lie between the San Andreas and Hayward faults.

Because earthquakes cause more shaking at ground level than below it, experts say the pipeline's location is considered more secure.

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UN demands 180 mln dollars to feed Pakistan flood victims
Islamabad (AFP) Sept 24, 2010
The United Nations on Friday called for 180 million dollars to feed six million flood victims in Pakistan till the end of this year. The UN is facing a shortage of money to meet the food requirements of victims of the disaster over the next two months, senior World Food Program official David Kaatrud said. "We have a very large distribution program for six million people on the monthly b ... read more

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