DAMS HAVE several uses. They generate electricity, store water for crop irrigation and help to prevent floods. They can also cause dispute and heartache—for example, over damage to the environment or the displacement of people whose homes are lost beneath dammed waters. The construction of one on the Nile has sparked a quarrel between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), costing $5bn, will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric-power project once fully operational later this decade. Located on the Blue Nile in northern Ethiopia, upstream from Egypt and Sudan, it will produce 6,000 megawatts of electricity, twice as much as Ethiopia’s entire current output. Even though the dam could give the region a big economic boost, officials from the three countries have failed

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