EXPLAINER

Explainer: Controversy surrounding Gibe III Dam

Ethiopia and Kenya were directed by the World Heritage Committee in 2015 to jointly mitigate the negative impact the dam would have.

In Summary

• The project has an electricity generation capacity of 1870 Megawatt and is the third-largest in Africa. Italian firm Salini Impregilo constructed it.

•  Ethiopia and her supporters for the dam said the project would boost the economy and improve the livelihoods of citizens.

GIBE III dam threatens thousands of Kenyans, say environmentalists
GIBE III dam threatens thousands of Kenyans, say environmentalists
Image: COURTESY

Ethiopia inaugurated the Gibe III dam on December 17, 2016. 

 

The project has an electricity generation capacity of 1870 Megawatt and is the third-largest in Africa. Italian firm Salini Impregilo constructed it.

Ethiopia and her supporters for the dam said the project would boost the economy and improve the livelihoods of citizens.

But there were fears of the impact on the communities living in Lower Omo in Ethiopia and near Kenya’s Lake Turkana. 

The dam is constructed on the Omo River, which runs from the North of Ethiopia and empties its waters in Lake Turkana that borders Kenya. 

Omo River contributes 80 per cent of Lake Turkana’s waters. 

In 2016, Survival International complained that the project would cut off regular flooding that supports subsistence agriculture for the region’s farmers.

It also alleged that there were human rights violations in the acquisition of land owned by communities living there.

 

Survival International criticised Salini for failing to seek free, prior and informed consent of local people before building the dam.

Not only the human rights violations that were raised.

The Lake Turkana National Park is a World Heritage Site and there were fears it would be negatively impacted. 

Ethiopia and Kenya were directed by the World Heritage Committee in 2015 to jointly mitigate the negative impact the dam would have.

The World Heritage Committee directed the two countries to raise $200,000 for the exercise.

It was, however, decided that the $1.8 billion Gibe III project proceed as scheduled.

But the expansion of the sugar irrigation scheme be preceded by a thorough environmental impact assessment.

For the country’s government, the project has been a remarkable success.

Electricity produced by the dam enables the efficient operation of sugar plantations downstream, whose vulnerable irrigation infrastructure is now safeguarded from floods.

However, a study by the Oakland Institute found profound damages caused by the Gibe III dam.  

Fieldwork has reportedly confirmed many in the region are suffering from acute hunger, particularly the Mursi.

This group, who number roughly 7,000, rely on the regularly-fertilised soil along the banks of the Omo River for their livelihood, but are now forced to scratch out an existence on the plains, their cattle being their only form of sustenance.

They were promised irrigated land on one of the various government-established resettlement sites, but the 0.25 hectares each household was allotted has since proved insufficient to feed the displaced families,NS Energy, an online publication reports.