A Finnish newspaper on Monday 27 June 2011 published an article warning that the world is about to lose it's largest desert lake. It would be interesting to see how the Finns reacted to this. The online article is in a pay-to-read section of the newspaper's website but our good friend Pirjo, or @Pihanne on Twitter, generously translated this article from the print paper she bought that morning. Her translation starts below.
Mega Dam Threatens Worlds Largest Desert Lake
Gibe 3 dam doubles Ethiopia’s energy production, but is threatening to destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands Kenyans
World’s largest desert lake, which is found in Kenya, is in danger of the same fate as Lake Aral.
Specialists say that the mega dam, which is being built in the neighbouring country Ethiopia, may drain Lake Turkana.
Lake Aral , which is located in the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, dried up in large areas into a desert due to the irrigation projects , which were implemented by the Soviet Union.
“Sooner or later the history will repeat itself in Lake Turkana” says environment counsellor Mr. Pertti Sevola from the Ostrobothnia’s business-, transport- and environment centre.
Ethiopia is building the world’s fourth largest dam in Omo river, which flows to Lake Turkana.
Gibe 3 dam is supposed to double Ethiopia’s energy production and supply irrigation water to fields, which the government has leased to Saudi -Arabia and China. One of the largest banks in China is financing the project.
Lake Turkana is almost 1,5 times the size of Finland’s Lake Saimaa.
The recent environmental report by the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that the irrigation projects will lower the lake between 7 to 20 meters, depending on the amount of irrigation water to be used.
Lower water levels will have an effect on fish catch and threatens to dry up wells, which are the only sources of clean fresh water for hundreds of thousands of people. This is the price that Kenyans are having to pay, so that Ethiopia will get cheap energy and investments from countries craving for arable land.
“Local communities have totally been forgotten.It’s outrageous”, says Pertti Sevola.
When water level gets lower the salt content will increase. There are 60 fish species living in the lake and part of them will suffer from the changes to the lake.The dam will also have an effect on the amount of nutrients flowing from the river to the lake. Reproduction of fish species depends on the natural annual cycle of the river.
“The whole reproduction cycle is under threat. It can end very badly”, says the professor emeritus of zoology,Mr. Ossi L. Lindqvist, from the University of East-Finland.
When the 151 kilometers long dam basin is filled up during the rainy season water levels in the river will get as low as during dry season.This will have a direct effect on the lake, which gets 90 percent of it’s water from the river.
Dam construction project has been on since 2006 and it will likely be completed by the summer of 2013.
The project has been controversial since the planning stages. Among other things the World Bank withdrew from financing the project due to it’s hazardous impact on the environment.
Here is a picture of the article as it appeared on the Finnish newspaper