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08 Dec

Climate change + Gibe III = death of Lake Turkana

Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, while speaking at the 16th Conference of Parties (COP 16) on climate change in Cancun, Mexico, asked the developed world to deliver on climate change promises made in Copenhagen during COP 15, including the pledge of $30 billion fast track financing, and the commitments of $100 billion annually by 2020. Odinga also said that we as Africans also have a share of the blame in exacerbating climate change through destruction of our forests.

As the world leaders meet in Cancun and engage in yet another round of hot air, the people of Lake Turkana are suffering. For decades now, their pasture has been declining and their animals have been dying. Rampant and prolonged drought caused by climate change is increasingly making it difficult for these traditional pastoralists to continue with their age old traditions of livestock herding. Many are now turning to fishing, a practice that they previously looked down upon.

Even as they go to fish, their equipment is far too inferior to allow them to really practice commercial fishing that would sufficiently subsidise their dying livestock herding practice. The lake's turbulent waters make it extremely dangerous to practice deep lake fishing using the inferior fishing boats and gear that they currently have and thus the further reaches of Lake Turkana remain unexplored for fish. Some charitable organisations are stepping in to help the people of the lake to practice deep lake fishing. One such organisation is the International Organisation for Immigration (IOM) which on 30 November 2010 announced that with the support of the Japanese government, they were assisting around 450 families in three landing beaches in Kalokol, Lake Turkana, with equipment and boats to enable them take up deep lake fishing. The assistance includes 1 fiber boat for rescue and security, 15 wooden fishing boats and 500 fishing nets.

Such projects are important in order to help transition the communities to more sustainable livelihood practices in the face of climate change. But with the construction of the Gibe III Dam in Ethiopian Omo River these projects are likely to collapse. Already, the lake is shrinking due to climate change. A project of Gibe III's magnitude is certainly going to devastate the already struggling lake - to the point of total dry-out in my opinion. What use will the new boats and fishing gear be if there is no lake to fish in?

As Friends of Lake Turkana, we urge more pressure from the IOM and other organisations that have the interest of the people of Lake Turkana, to cause the Ethiopian government to rethink the project. Ethiopia could benefit from selling electricity to its neighbours but at what cost? There are other ways to generate electricity that do not involve killing the worlds largest permanent desert lake, and its people and ecosystem. A good example is the Lake Turkana wind power project that the government of Kenya is working on - although there have been delays on the project. Ethiopia could also use wind.

You can read a bit more about the IOM announcement or their project at ReliefWeb
Raila Odinga's speech is reported on by the Daily Nation

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Last modified on Tuesday, 04 January 2011 15:01
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