Home | News    Thursday 25 March 2010

International campaigners joined to halt Ethiopia’s giant Dam

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 24, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) — A group of international campaigners have launched a new movement, seeking a stop to Ethiopia’s massive dam project on Omo river, arguing that its construction will lead to devastation on the livelihoods of about half a million people.

The groups, Survival international, the Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank, Counter Balance coalition, Friends of Lake Turkana and International Rivers launched an on line petition to stop Gilgel Gibe III dam, Which is a continuation of Gibe I and Gibe II power projects.

Italian company Salini Costruttori, has been contracted to build the dam. The same company built the smaller Gibe II dam, now shut down temporarily for repair after part of the 27 Kilometers long water passage tunnel of the dam collapsed few days after inauguration in January.

The campaigners urged potential international funders, including the Africa Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the Italian government not to support the project.

‘‘The Ethiopian government plans to lease huge tracts of tribal land in the Omo Valley to foreign companies and governments for large-scale production of crops, including bio fuels, which will be fed by water from the dam.’’ One among the groups, Survival international said.

The group accused the Ethiopian government of endangering the survival of tribal communities by launching massive projects along the Omo River without their knowledge.

‘‘Most of the tribal people who will be affected by the dam know nothing about the project. The Ethiopian government is clamping down on tribal organizations, and last year closed down 41 local ‘community associations’, making it impossible for communities to hold meetings about the dam.’’ It added.

The Omo River is the primary source of Kenya’s famous Lake Turkana, which supports the lives of 300,000 people who pasture their cattle on its banks and fish there. The dam will threaten their survival too as the dam would reduce the flow of water to lake Turkana. Both the Lower Omo Valley and Lake Turkana are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The project will impact at least 200,000 tribal people in Ethiopia, Survival said.

Survival’s director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The Gibe III dam will be a disaster of cataclysmic proportions for the tribes of the Omo valley. Their land and livelihoods will be destroyed, yet few have any idea what lies ahead. The government has violated Ethiopia’s constitution and international law in the procurement process. No respectable outside body should be funding this atrocious project.’’

The construction of Gibe III Dam was launched in 2006 with an estimated cost of 1.4 Billion Euros. Up on completion in 2012, the dam will generate 1,800 MW of electricity, making it Africa’s second largest power dam.

(ST)

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