Tag Archive for 'Omo river'

Omo River, Lake Turkana at Risk from Dams and Plantations

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“Dams and irrigated plantations being built in Ethiopia will bring major changes to the flow of the Lower Omo River, which in turn will harm ecosystem functions and local livelihoods all the way to the river’s terminus at Lake Turkana in Kenya. More dams are planned for the basin that would compound the damages.

Here we outline some of the basic changes that can be expected as a result of these developments, and include resources on where to get more information.

Fast Facts

  • The Gibe III reservoir is expected to start filling at the beginning of the next Kiremt rainy season (approximately May 2014); filling the reservoir will take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%.
  • The Gibe III will provide stable flows year-round that will enable the growth of large commercial agricultural plantations in the Lower Omo. The Kuraz sugar plantation and additional areas identified for cultivation could eventually take almost half of the Omo River inflow to Lake Turkana.
  • These projects will cause a decrease in river flow and the size, length, and number of floods, which will be disastrous for downstream users. This is the first year in which runoff from the Kiremt season, which is vital for flood-recession agriculture, restoration of grazing areas, and fisheries production, will be almost completely blocked.”

Read more: International Rivers


 

Chinese loans could fuel regional conflict in East Africa

Photo retrieved from: www.chinadialogue.net

“China has made great efforts to support poverty reduction in Africa, and likes to present itself as a friend of the African people. But loans for contentious dam and irrigation projects now threaten to pull China into an explosive regional conflict between well-armed groups in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The Lower Omo Valley in south-west Ethiopia and Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya are marked by a harsh climate and unique, fragile ecosystems. They are home to 12 indigenous peoples, one of the largest remaining wildlife migrations, and some of the earliest remains of the human species.

The region is currently being transformed by one of Africa’s biggest and most controversial infrastructure ventures. Once completed, the Gibe III hydropower project will dam the Omo River to generate electricity with a capacity of 1,870 megawatts. It will also allow the irrigation of 2,450 square kilometres of sugar plantations, which are currently being developed on indigenous lands and in national parks.”

Read more: China Dialogue

Ethiopia Pursues Controversial Dam Project

Photo retrieved from: www.ethiopiaforums.com

“The government embarked on the project – expected to be the largest hydropower plant in Africa – to help solve a national energy crisis and to help turn Ethiopia’s economy around.

“The rural population will get electricity, the amount of megawatts we are going to produce is for all the population. It is not only for industry or towns it is for all nation,” Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopia’s energy and water minister, told Al Jazeera.

Foundations have already been laid at the Gibe III dam, in Oromia in western Ethiopia. When completed, the dam’s 243-metre high wall will be the tallest of its kind in the world.

“Once finished, the electricity generated at this one dam will be enough to double Ethiopia’s power capacity, and there are other dams under construction,” Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported from the dam site.”

“The plan is for electricity to become Ethiopia’s biggest export.”

Read more: Aljazeera

Ethiopia dam project rides roughshod over heritage of local tribespeople

Photo retrieved from: www.guardian.co.uk

“Thousands of semi-nomadic tribespeople are being forcibly moved from their traditional lands in southern Ethiopia to make way for European and Indian sugar cane and biofuel plantations, according to testimonies collected by Survival International researchers.

Agricultural developments along the Omo river valley have accompanied the building of the 243-metre-high Gibe III dam, expected to be Ethiopia’s largest investment project and Africa‘s largest hydropower plant. But allegations of human rights abuses have marred both the dam’s construction and the creation of a 140-mile-long reservoir intended to provide water for irrigation of industrial-scale plantations.

“Clearance of people and bush has started in earnest in the Omo Valley and violence against tribal people by the military, and tribal resistance, is increasing”, says a Survival researcher who has just returned to London from the region.”

“The tribes have been told the plan is to resettle them, and that this will happen by the end of 2012. These people are among the most self-sufficient in a country where famine and hunger are prevalent.”

Read more: Guardian

Ethiopia’s tribes cry for help

Photo retrieved from: www.aljazeera.com

“Violent clashes between the Ethiopian army and tribes from the region are on the rise. A local human rights worker told me of their fears of an escalation in the crisis to civil war. “Many tribes are saying they will fight back rather than be moved off their traditional lands to make way for these plantations. They are living in fear but feel they have nothing to lose by fighting back.”

Roadblocks are now in place in many parts of the Lower Omo Valley, limiting accessibility and ensuring the relocations remain out of the spotlight. Tribal rights NGO Survival International is leading calls for a freeze on plantation building and for a halt to the evictions. They have been campaigning to draw more attention to the deteriorating situation in the region since the Ethiopian government announced plans for the Gib III Dam [PDF] – Africa’s tallest, and one that is scheduled for completion later this year.

When completed, it threatens to destroy a fragile environment and the livelihoods of the tribes, which are closely linked to the river and its annual flood. Up to 500,000 people – including tribes in neighbouring Kenya – rely on the waters and adjacent lands of the Omo River and Lake Turkana, most of which lies in Kenya. The Karo people, now estimated to number just 1,500 along the eastern banks of the Omo River, face extinction. Already suffering from dwindling fish stocks as a result of the dam, the reduced river levels have also harmed their crop yields.”

Read more: Aljazeera

 

How the Global 1% Shape the World’s Development Agenda

G20 party. Retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“The infrastructure sector is a key example for the G20’s powerful role behind the scenes. The group has commissioned a high-level panel of experts to prepare recommendations on future infrastructure investment in Southern countries. This panel brings together 17 leading representatives of large corporations, banks and government agencies. Civil society groups and trade unions are absent from its roster. The panel has just submitted its recommendations to the G20’s heads of state, who will convene for their annual meeting in Cannes/France next week. The new report illustrates what is wrong with delegating extensive powers to an exclusive body like the G20:

  • Public interest ignored: In its early announcements, the high-level panel narrowly focused on the promotion of economic growth, at the exclusion of poverty reduction, environmental protection, and human rights. In its new report, the panel will recommend six criteria according to which the World Bank and other funders should prioritize their future projects. As the Boell Foundation reports, these criteria include issues such as regional integration and attractiveness for the private sector. They are silent on poverty reduction, protection of the environment and even climate change.
  • Big is beautiful: The high-level panel was asked to identify a number of projects which exemplify the new approach to infrastructure development. Early on, this list included a transmission line between Ethiopia and Kenya and the Inga hydropower scheme on the Congo River. The transmission line will depend on the completion of the controversial Gibe III Dam on the Omo River, which violates numerous international agreements and will impoverish up to 500,000 indigenous people. The Inga dams will cost billions of dollars and will generate electricity for aluminum smelters and far-away urban centers, but will ignore the needs of Africa’s rural poor. The first two stages of the hydropower scheme have turned out to be white elephants and monuments of corruption. Scientists have warnedthat the proposed new dams may have “truly alarming” impacts on the capacity of the Atlantic Ocean to absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”

Read more: International Rivers

 

MPs Join Opposition To Ethiopian Dam

Photo retrieved from: www.ethiopiaforums.com

“The dam will reduce the Omo River flow into Lake Turkana causing the lake’s water levels to drop by 10 meters. This will critically alter the ecosystem affecting over 300,000 people. The lake will also become saline and undrinkable,” he argued.

While seconding the Motion, which was supported by several MPs from across the political divide, nominated MP Rachael Shebesh accused the government of ignoring the plight of its people by allowing Ethiopia to carry on with the project despite the issues raised.

She added that the dam would kill the economic livelihoods of the people living around the Lake and affect their independence.

“If you are negotiating as a government on behalf of your people the first people you should consider are those who will be affected by what you’re negotiating about. The government should not negotiate away the rights of Kenyans,” she said.

“This dam will make 300,000 people crawl to their knees!” she moaned.

“However Water Minister Charity Ngilu assured the House of the government’s commitment to protecting its people. Ms Ngilu said the government had already set up a committee to look into the issue before presenting its report in September.

She added that when the Ethiopian government first undertook to construct Gibe I with a capacity of 839 million cubic meters on River Gibe, which is a tributary of River Omo, no questions were raised. She however observed that the construction of Gibe II, still on River Gibe, caused concern.”

Read more: Capital FM News

 

When The Water Ends: Africa’s Climate Conflicts

Photo retrieved from: www.ei.columbia.edu

“For thousands of years, nomadic herdsmen have roamed the harsh, semi-arid lowlands that stretch across 80 percent of Kenya and 60 percent of Ethiopia. Descendants of the oldest tribal societies in the world, they survive thanks to the animals they raise and the crops they grow, their travels determined by the search for water and grazing lands.

These herdsmen have long been accustomed to adapting to a changing environment. But in recent years, they have faced challenges unlike any in living memory: As temperatures in the region have risen and water supplies have dwindled, the pastoralists have had to range more widely in search of suitable water and land. That search has brought tribal groups in Ethiopia and Kenya in increasing conflict, as pastoral communities kill each other over water and grass.”

“When the Water Ends,” a 16-minute video produced by Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm , tells the story of this conflict and of the increasingly dire drought conditions facing parts of East Africa. To report this video, Evan Abramson , a 32-year-old photographer and videographer, spent two months in the region early this year, living among the herding communities. He returned with a tale that many climate scientists say will be increasingly common in the 21st century and beyond — how worsening drought in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere will pit group against group, nation against nation. As one UN official told Abramson, the clashes between Kenyan and Ethiopian pastoralists represent “some of the world’s first climate-change conflicts.”

Read more: Yale Environment

Ethiopia’s Controversial Dam Project

Members of the Karo tribe at the Omo river, on which the Gibe III dam is being built. Photo retrieved from: www.guardian.co.uk

“There is particular concern over the Gibe III dam being built on the Omo river, the largest infrastructure project in Ethiopian history. Campaigners say it threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in the South Omo region and around Lake Turkana in Kenya. The Lower Omo Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is home to agro-pastoralists from eight distinct indigenous groups who depend on the Omo river’s annual flood to support riverbank cultivation and grazing lands for livestock.

Launching a new five-year development plan in August last year, the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, vowed to complete the dam “at any cost” and lashed out at Survival International and other critics, saying, “They don’t want to see developed Africa; they want us to remain undeveloped and backward to serve their tourists as a museum … These people talk about the hazard of building dams after they have already completed building dams in their country.”

However, Peter Bosshard, policy director for International Rivers, one of the groups involved in the campaign against Gibe III(pdf), says that international groups had to speak out because local campaigners had effectively been silenced. He said members of affected communities were not consulted; anybody even suspected of opposing the dam risks suffering serious consequences.

“Accountable governments and public participation in decision-making are key elements of social and economic development,” said Bosshard. “The Ethiopian government makes a mockery of these concepts. In the Gibe III dam, the biggest infrastructure project in Ethiopia’s history, any participation by the affected people has been suppressed, and any dissenters risk arrest or worse.”

Read more: Guardian

Kenyans to Protest Chinese Involvement in Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam

Photo retrieved from: www.ethiofocus.yolasite.com

“The mammoth $1.7 billion Gibe 3 Dam project to be constructed on the Omo River, some 300 kilometres south-west of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, is the largest project to ever be implemented in Ethiopia. Once completed, it will stand at 240 metres high – to become the tallest dam in Africa – and hold a 211 km2 reservoir behind it. Construction begun in 2006 and the first power production was scheduled for 2011, while the dam would be completed in 2012. Ethiopia hopes to produce 1,870 megawatt, more than double the country’s current installed capacity and make $ 400 million from power export to Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti.

Communities living within the Omo River-Lake Turkana basin are opposed to this project that will inflict permanent damage to their way of life and peace in the region. Damming the Omo River will permanently change the river’s flood patterns which the Ethiopian communities living in the lower Omo basin have depended on for centuries. It will also reduce or completely cut out inflow of water into Lake Turkana – which depends on the river for 90% of its water – especially during the period of filling up the reservoir. “These drastic changes will irreparably destroy the lives of some 700,000 already disadvantaged people in both Kenya and Ethiopia”, said Ikal Angelei, Director of Friends of Lake Turkana.

Due to the project’s unpopularity and its potential social and environmental injustices, various prospective donors – including the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (US$341 million loan) – have withdrawn their support. The African Development Bank was also considering funding the project.”

Read more: African Press Agency