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
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
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
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
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