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20 Dec

New Study Reveals Likely Full Impact of Gibe 3 and Irrigation on Lake Turkana & Omo River

manyattaA new study conducted by Dr Sean Avery and released by the African Study Centre reveals a much grimmer picture of the impact of the building of Gibe III Dam on the Omo River and associated large scale irrigation-dependent plantations in Ethiopia would have on the Lake Turkana and Lower Omo Basins. The report shows how Gibe's regulation of the flow of the Omo will alter the annual flood regime upon which the agro-pastoralists of the lower Omo depend for their livelihoods and how it will, coupled with the abstraction of Omo water for large-scale irrigation will alter the hydrological inflow patterns to Lake Turkana, directly impacting the ecology of the world's largest lake.

This is the second comprehensive study of the impact of Gibe on the hydrology of Lake Turkana and Lover Omo that the Nairobi-based consultant hydrologist and civil engineer, Dr Sean Avery, has conducted. Dr Avery previously carried out the only comprehensive assessment of the impact of the dam on Lake Turkana and Lower Omo - commissioned by the African Development Bank (AfDB) - but that was before the full scale of planned irrigation-dependent large scale plantation development was known. 

A few months after the AFDB report was submitted, the full extent of planned irrigation development in the lower Omo became clearer, with the announcement that the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation would soon begin developing 150,000 hectares of irrigated sugar plantations. It became necessary to conduct a new study to consolidate the previous findings with the new information.

Dr Avery's new report is now available to download from the website of the University of Oxford's African Studies Centre. We have placed the links to the two volume report and an executive summary here. You can also read Dr Avery's first report in the Documents Downloads section of our website.

Download Documents


The River Omo and Lake Turkana Hydrology: Executive Summary and Introduction

The River Omo and Lake Turkana Hydrology: Volume I

The River Omo and Lake Turkana Hydrology: Volume II

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Last modified on Thursday, 20 December 2012 15:15

Friends of Lake Turkana is registered as a Community Trust and consists of a volunteer Executive Committee, which oversees the everyday functioning of the organization.


1 comment

  • Anthony Mitchell

    Lake Turkana the 22nd largest lake, 24th by volume. It is, however, the world’s largest permanent desert lake and the world’s largest alkaline lake. Those distinguishing characteristics raise Lake Turkana’s significance as a unique ecological resource.

    Dr. Avery’s study does not appear to take evapotranspiration into account from the new lakes behind the dams on the Omo River, nor from the regions around these lakes admittedly impacted by higher water tables and by significant groundwater outflows due to secondary permeability. Insignificant evapotranspiration, if this were to be the case, would make it difficult to explain the increased salinity observed in soils around the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.

    In looking at the history of the siting processes for the Gibe dams, evidence appears to be lacking to support any explanation other than a rough sort of back-of-the-envelope process for siting Gibe III. Given the aggressive follow-on plans for additional large dams on the Omo River, which appear inconsistent with the credit worthiness of the sponsoring authorities, now would be a good time for a ‘pause’ to examine less risky alternatives that could be more easily integrated into applicable tariff structures than current plans. This is important because international lenders rely on tariffs in order to recoup their loans.

    Can or should tariffs support repayment of Gibe II loans? Probably not, unless basic tariff principles are violated by EEPCo and its franchise customers. This is because the costs of the technical failures at Gibe II are not “used and useful” to ratepayers.

    Less risky alternatives could include smaller dams or barrages like the Aswan Dam (not the High Dam), with closed-loop storage alternatives to the big reservoirs currently planned. Water could be pumped uphill into storage areas during times of low demand and then run back down through ROTR turbines and stored at low elevations until times of low demand.

    Planning can pay off, both in financial terms and in providing win-win alternatives to the current back-of-the-envelope recklessness.

    Report Anthony Mitchell Friday, 11 January 2013 13:13 Comment Link
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