“The affected Congolese, in Rwanda and the DRC, want an end to the violence and a chance to return home,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said in a news release. “It is vital that all partners in the region contribute to solve this crisis, which is affecting the region.”Earlier Thursday, Ms. Amos visited the Kigeme refugee camp in southern Rwanda, where more than 11,500 Congolese are housed. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads, about 20,000 people have crossed the DRC border into Rwanda, fleeing armed violence in the DRC’s North Kivu province.The eastern DRC – particularly its provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu – has been plagued by violence over the past few months as a group of renegade soldiers known as the 23 March Movement (M23) has been active in the area. The M23 has clashed with national army troops, which have been supported by peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and has caused massive displacement of local residents, in addition to raising concerns about the region’s stability.In addition, the fighting in eastern DRC has uprooted nearly half a million people over the past four months, including some 220,000 people in North Kivu province, 200,000 in South Kivu province, and more than 51,000 who have fled to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. The M23’s activities have led to condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.The Rwandan Government and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are responsible for coordination efforts in Kigeme camp, with UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental partners providing basic services such as water, sanitation, health and food.“The Government of Rwanda has played a crucial role in the relief effort, providing a site where families, children separated from their parents, the elderly and other vulnerable persons have sought safety,” Ms. Amos said. “However, more resources are needed to scale up the response.”While in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Ms. Amos met Prime Minister Pierre Habururemyi and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. Their discussions centred on the ongoing relief efforts in DRC and Rwanda, and the ways in which the United Nations and its partners are supporting them, as well as regional efforts to resolve the crisis.Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban renewed his call for the regional grouping known as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to help resolve the security crisis in the eastern DRC.Ms. Amos’ visit to Rwanda was preceded by a visit to DRC. The three-day mission to the two African countries was aimed at highlighting the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the DRC and its effect on the region, particularly on neighbouring Rwanda, in addition to discussing ways of strengthening relief efforts and mobilizing additional assistance, including financial support, with Congolese and Rwandan authorities and other humanitarian partners.
THE CEO OF Eirgrid, Fintan Slye, has told an Oireachtas committee that he would have “no issue” living next to a pylon, the day after the incoming chairman of the company admitted he would not want to live beside one.Yesterday John O’Connor told the committee on Transport and Communications that he “would not like to live close to a pylon”. However, when asked the same question by committee chair John O’Mahony, the company’s CEO said:In terms of my personal view, I would have no issue living next to a pylon. In the first instance, I know it’s completely safe – I have no issue with that.He said another reason he would have no problem with it is because of the necessity for servicing the grid and for the jobs and infrastructure of the community.Syle pointed to “a wealth of studies” that indicate pylons do not cause any health issues and the fact that we are 50 times below the limits set out in World Health Organisation guidelines.Representatives for the company are before the committee to discuss and address issues in relation to three projects that the company is working on across the country – the North/South Interconnector in Meath, Gridwest from Carrick-on-Shannon to Mayo and Gridlink which will stretch from Cork to Wexford and on to Kildare.Going undergroundOn the issue of the visual impact of the pylons, Slye said Eirgrid works with communities and individuals during and after the consultation process to come up with solutions but said that for significant distances, “it is not possible to underground”.He said this would require inserting large converter stations “larger than Croke Park” around the country and would involve considerably higher costs.With all three largescale projects under discussion, if they were to go underground instead of building pylons, Slye said it would “add about €2 billion to the cost of electricity” and this would in turn add to bills for consumers.The CEO told the committee that Eirgrid as “no vested interest in any particular technology solutions”.Get down and dirtyFianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley was critical of Eirgrid, which he said was “less forthcoming” on some of the impacts that transmission lines will have on communities and individuals, like the potential effect on property values.Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath urged the company’s CEO to “get down and dirty, as I say, with the people, and stand in the people’s kitchens.Take off the suits and get on the wellies and go into the farmyards and asked the people and talk to them instead of talking over them and at them.Michelle Mulherin, Fine Gael TD for the Mayo constituency, which is included in plans for one of the three projects, said “at the very least – and you don’t need to be an expert for this – they don’t look nice.”She said Eirgrid should lay out the pros and cons of all of the options to give people a full evaluation.“Let people see the upsides and the downsides for themselves,” she told representatives.Slye said that the need for more details on this, and in particular an assessment of undergrounding as an option, is becoming clear in the consultation process for the Gridlink process and that is something the company is looking at.He said he would be happy to address the committee again to update them after the consultation process is over in January next year.Read: Rabbitte: ‘There must be meaningful engagement with the public over Eirgrid plans’>Read: ‘I wouldn’t like to live close to a pylon, but who would?’ – Incoming Eirgrid chair>