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Published On  Nov 27,  2011
   
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Everyone is aware that the deforestation of Ethiopiaís forests has got to stop. Paradoxically, there are many who, deprived of electricity, must depend on fuel wood from the trees for survival.
 

ENVIRONMENT

DEGRADED FROM RICHES TO RAGS

Camels are used to haul fuel wood cut from trees that also provide them with food.

Late in the morning last Wednesday the sky was clear and blue. The sunlight was very bright and particularly scorching for this time of year. Some people take the abnormal weather as a precursor of another dry season. Others complain about global warming and try to make some derivations. Well-intentioned observers talk about converting the heat into a useful source of energy on a larger scale.  

Despite the huge solar power going untapped in the capital city, quite a number of clients of the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) within the domain of the northern district of Addis Abeba are encountering unexpected problems related to their power connection.

Fikrte, a client who has lived for over 30 years in my neighborhood, has a sad story to tell.

A fortnight ago two staffs of the EPPCO showed up at her home, surveyed her homeís electric meter and gave her a note to report to their office, which strangely enough is located in an obscure and unbecoming area.

The next morning, she went to the office only to find an unexpected penalty of 251 Br for allegedly having tampered with the meter. The day after, two technicians came and reduced the power down to smithereens as it were, rendering it to an amount incapable of heating an oven. Fikrte went back to plead with the authorities to rectify the problem. She was told to pay 40 Br more for a technician to go to her house and carry out the corrective plan. She had no choice but to comply. It has now been over two weeks and nothing has saved her from buying injera at a price of 2.50 Br a piece. 

In contrast to the telling story of Fikirte , pack animals loaded with bundles of twigs and dry leaves from eucalyptus trees are flocking down the roads of Addis Abeba these days as never before. Many households are forced to dust off their ovens and use fuel wood to bake bread the traditional way. Perhaps, more trees would be cut down to let others live. Oneís death is anotherís life as they say.

As a case in point, the temperature in Dire Dawa is soaring upwards in the region of 35 degree Celsius. The scorching heat is almost unbearable especially when there is a power breakdown and the ventilators stop functioning. Hence, fuel wood becomes almost indispensable, even as it is nearing extinction there.

Aysha is a 35-year old woman who tries all she can to bring up her four children and make ends meet. She travels long distances in the suburbs of Dire Dawa to find fuel wood for sale. She often pays nominally to young shepherds who help her to cut down trees and split the wood into loadable sizes for the backs of her three camels.

The terrain has been exploited for decades and is now barren and devoid of any vegetation except for a few acacia trees standing here and there. Seen from the perspective of an artist, acacia trees are very beautiful to see. Most of the trees have almost similar heights and thicknesses. Their stems are covered with a gray substance that seems to age the bark. At a height of about two meters, the main trunk branches out in different directions and forms all kinds of geometric shapes and designs. They have tiny leaves and thorny bark.

Camels feed on these little leaves which are not out of reach for the tall animals. Aysha feels bad when she cuts these trees; thereby competing with the hungry camels. But she has to do it because her family has to survive too. Ironically, one of her pack animals is a she-camel that provides her with milk for her children. The predator-prey connection is unique, indeed. It is a question of who should remain alive at whose expense. .

 

 

Her customers, who have no access to electricity, depend on fuel wood for cooking. They too have to keep themselves alive even if they have to pay over 100 Br for a bundle of wood. Many traders smuggle in charcoal to Dire Dawa to avoid having to pay taxes leviedon it by the administration.

Power interruptions, which are frequent occurrences in the city and the suburban towns where the temperature is rather high, make life very difficult. The provision of electricity in urban areas is not only essential for domestic and industrial use, but also an important substitute for fuel wood. Thus conservation of trees and shrubs can be facilitated. 

The rate at which trees and green vegetation are being depleted is increasing so rapidly that maintaining any balance is almost beyond the possibility of managing it. There are many environmental experts who argue that the world is doomed if nothing is done robustly to save it before it is too late.

They say that already a lot of damage has been done to the ozone layer of the atmosphere as a result of the carbon emissions following industrialization. Contrary to the global agreement to curtail carbon emissions, some of the most developed countries responsible for the greater share of the emissions have not yet complied to the resolution, except perhaps through sympathetic lip-service.

There are other optimistic experts who believe that the world can be saved if countries cooperate to use their knowledge to undertake the necessary research and development capabilities.  

Reforestation projects as well as using renewable energy sources are among the measures advised to be taken within the shortest possible period of time, rather than clearing forests and using traditional forms of energy. Making efforts to control population growth to make the supply compatible with the growing demand could also be part of the solution.

These steps augmented by the reduction of carbon emissions by the industrialized countries is hoped to ease the negative impact on the environment. Certainly, both the dissatisfaction of Fikirte and the hassles faced by Aysha could be redressed through integrated energy management strategies that account for environmental degradation and climate change.  

 

 

 

BY Girma Feyissa

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

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