Home | News    Friday 18 March 2016

Italian firm accused of posing threat to thousands in Ethiopia, Kenya

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 17, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – Survival International (SI)‚ a global movement for the rights of indigenous tribal peoples has lodged complaint against an Italian giant construction company, Salini, over impacts of one of Ethiopia mega projects, the Gilgel Gibe III hydro power plant it has built.

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The US$1.5 billion Gibe III project dam is expected to generate 1870 MW of electricity.

Survival said it has reported the Italian engineering giant Salini to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) over the rights impacts to communities in Ethiopia and Kenya.

It also stressed that the construction of the controversial dam in Ethiopia’s Omo River cuts off the Omo River’s regular flooding‚ over which 100‚000 people rely on to water their crops and livestock and a further 100,000 depend on indirectly.

It said the dam project will eventually destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia and Kenya.

“Up to half a million people face starvation as a result of the dam Salini has constructed on the Omo River,” Survival said in a statement it issued on Monday.

According to experts, the dam project threatens Lake Turkana – the world’s largest permanent desert lake – and disaster for the 300,000 people from tribes living along its shores.

Survival said Salini did not seek the consent of local people before building the dam, but claimed that an “artificial flood release” would compensate them for their losses. However, this promised flood never came and thousands of people now face starvation.

According to Survival, the region is one of the most important sites in early human evolution‚ and an area of exceptional biodiversity‚ with two World Heritage Sites and five national parks.

“The head of Kenya’s conservation agency said last week that the dam is unleashing “one of the worst environmental disasters you can imagine.”

Stephen Corry of Survival international said “Salini has ignored crucial evidence‚ made false promises and ridden roughshod over the rights of hundreds of thousands of people.”

"Thousands are now facing starvation because Italy’s largest contractor‚ and one of its best known companies‚ didn’t think human rights were worth its time,” he said.

He said the real consequences of the Ethiopian government’s devastating policies for its country’s ’development’‚ which were “shamefully supported by western aid agencies like the UK’s DFID and USAID”‚ are plain for all to see.

Stealing people’s land and causing massive environmental destruction, he added, is not progress; it is a death sentence for tribal peoples.

Ethiopia has been facing massive protests from a number of international rights groups and environmental campaigners over the construction of the Gibe III dam project.

Groups like the International Rivers, Friends of Lake Turkana, The Oakland Institute, and other groups argued that no inclusive Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was made ahead of the construction and extensively campaigned for halt of the project.

According to the groups, Gibe III like those Gibe I and II diverts the flow of the Omo River in Ethiopia, which feeds 90% of Lake Turkana in Kenya and endangers the lake and tens of thousands of people from 17 ethnic groups who live in the Lower Omo Valley.

Despite huge pressure, Ethiopia however recently completed the Gibe which is the country’s second largest hydro power plant after the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam; the horn of Africa’s nation is building along the Nile River.

Gibe III, a 610 meter-long and 243 meter high roller-compacted concrete dam has power generation capacity of 1,870 Megawatt.

Ethiopia has dismissed allegations that its dam projects will cause environmental damage to populations in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Previously, Addis Ababa however said claims released by the rights groups are bogus. It further accused them of working for the interest of their western alleys.

(ST)

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