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15 Jan

Chinese loans could fuel regional conflict in East Africa

Dam and irrigation projects could spark "bloody and persistent" conflict, suggests Peter Bosshard of International Rivers.

Photo by Alison M. Jones for http://nowater-nolife.org
a tribal man from Ethiopia's Lower Omo River Basin. (Image by Alison M. Jones for www.nowater-nolife.org)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.

Scientific report documents looming environmental disaster

The dam and irrigation projects have been debated for many years. Reports commissioned and prepared by the African Development Bank, International Rivers, the World Heritage Committee and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority have documented their impacts on the fragile ecosystems of the Lower Omo River and Lake Turkana, the 500,000 indigenous people who depend on them, and the unique cultural heritage of this cradle of humankind.

A new scientific study published by the NGO International Rivers explores the social and environmental impacts of the project in detail, and examines the knock-on effects of the impending ecological crisis on the security of the volatile border region of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan. The study confirms that Lake Turkana, the world's largest desert lake, almost completely depends on the inflows from the Omo River, and that the lake's unique ecosystems and fisheries are closely linked to the river’s annual flood cycle.

The dam and sugar plantations will affect this ecosystem in several ways. The dam will interrupt the annual flood of the Omo River, which sustains the agriculture, grazing lands and fisheries of the region. The filling of the Gibe III reservoir will lower the water level of Lake Turkana by two metres. The sugar plantations will divert at least 28% of the Omo River’s annual flow, and lower the lake's water level by at least 13 metres. Read more...

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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 06:11
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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.

Website: friendsoflaketurkana.org

1 comment

  • Lee

    I think the claims presented by your organization, as well as, International Rivers, and Oakland are unsubstantiated and meant to discourage investors from helping to enrich Ethiopi. By telling the tribes of the Omo and Turkana basin that their only life-source is being threatened by Ethiopia, may indeed spark violence, if they believe you. In that case, I think what you are doing or implying is irresponsible and dangerous. Ancient lifestyles and more ethnic tension will ensure that poverty persists. White paternalism is not going to help Ethiopians improve their lives. It appears now that you can't legally stop the Gibe III dam, you and your Leftist friends will instigate violence and ethnic divisions to destabilize Ethiopia. In fact, I have noticed that separatist groups like OLF, ONLF, and others, have used your reports, almost word for word, as a rallying call for violence. I highly doubt that you are not aware of this. So, I ask you, to be responsible, do not use bloodshed as a last resort in your crusade against a country who has decided they have been poor for way too long.. Respect the sovereignty of African nations. Don't accuse others of neo-colonialism when you're trying to dictate to Africans how they can use their land. Let them determine their own destiny.

    Report Lee Sunday, 17 March 2013 03:00 Comment Link
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