News / 11 November 2010

Gibe 3 project will have serious impact on local population

A large hydropower dam is threatening the Omo river basin in Ethiopia and the surroundings of lake Turkana in Kenya. Completion of the dam will have devastating effects on the environment and on hundreds of thousands of mostly tribal people who live in the area. As a result of ongoing protests and studies on the impact of the dam, several funders have already withdrawn their loans. Unfortunately, the Industrial Commercial Bank of China has now offered to further fund the project. This week, the Kenian organisation 'Friends of Lake Turkana' (FoLT) will send a petition to the Chinese ambassador in Kenia to stress the need for intervention.


The Gibe 3 hydropower dam is the largest investment project ever implemented in Ethiopia. With 240 meters in hight, upon completion it will be the largest hydropower dam in Africa. Ethiopia aims on making hydropower a major product for export. Since almost all generated power will go to Kenia and other neighbouring countries, the local population will not benefit from the dam.


The river Omo starts in Ethiopia and flows into in Lake Turkana in Kenia. The lake is called 'the cradle of humanity' because of its unique biodiversity, cultural and archeological heritage. Once completed, the Gibe 3 dam will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands indigenous people who depend on the river and the lake for fishing, growing crop and cattle herding.


The dam will block the south western part of the Omo river, creating a 150 kilometer long reservoir on the North, drowning lands, homes and sacred sites. To the south, the dam will decrease the water level of the Omo river and alter the annual floods, making the river banks less fertile. Further downstream in Kenya, the water levels of Lake Turkana will drop over ten meters according to studies. This will result in the drying up of the lake's most productive fishing area and greatly increase the salinity of the lake. In the whole river and lake area fresh water and fertile lands will become scarce, stirring up conflicts between tribes.


The next step for FoLT is to convince the Chinese government of its responsibility in this matter. China has strict rules and principles when it comes to funding of international projects, and ICBC is going against them. Several international organisations like International Rivers (IR) and BankTrack are supporting FoLT in their mission.

Photo by Bajun

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