Groups to protest against China-funded Ethiopian dam
February 18, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – International conservation groups, members of civil society and other concerned individuals will on Sunday, 20 February 2011 stage a peaceful protest march to petition the Chinese government against the involvement of several Chinese companies in the construction of a controversial dam.
The activists say the hydroelectric dam “threatens” the survival of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people throughout the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia and around Lake Turkana in Kenya.”
According to campaigners, if completed, the Gibe III Dam will devastate the fragile ecosystems of the lower Omo Valley and Kenya’s Lake Turkana, on which 500,000 poor farmers, herders and fisher folk rely for their livelihoods.
Campaigners also fear that the dam would reduce the flow of water into Lake Turkana. The dam would flood a huge area, creating a 150km-long lake. The groups have been urging western donors and banks not to fund the Gibe III hydroelectric dam project.
But Ethiopia’s government disagrees, saying that the dam is needed to generate electricity and will not affect its flow. Power generated out of it will be used for its population and to sell power abroad and the advantages outweighs for the whole country, the local communities, and even for our neighboring countries, including Kenya, Addis Ababa says.
Led by the civil society group, Friends of Lake Turkana, the protesters will deliver a petition, signed by more than 2,000 organizations and individuals, to the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China in Nairobi, seeking the intervention of the Chinese government to either bar or advice the companies against involvement in this “environmentally, socially and culturally harmful mega-project”.
The petition also claims that the dam could trigger a resource-based conflict between communities living around the Kenya-Sudan-Ethiopia border.
Construction began in 2006 and if completed on the dam would be Africa’s second largest hydroelectric dam.
Up on completion in 2012, Ethiopia hopes to more than double the country’s current capacity and export power export to Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti.
Communities living within the Omo River-Lake Turkana basin are opposed to the project saying that it will inflict permanent damage to their way of life and peace in the region. Damming the Omo River, they say, 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 percent of its water.
“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.
Friends of Lake Turkana and concerned organizations will be delivering a petition against the involvement of Chinese companies in the project demanding that the banks withdraw their funding and the construction companies cancel their contracts.
“Construction of Gibe III is the most outrageous social injustice of our time,” said Angelei.
“These companies have an obligation to uphold the rights of our people, who have been marginalized and victimized for far too long by their oppressive and neglectful regimes,” she said.