Written by Samuel Maina, Friends of Lake Turkana
19 October 2010
It is quite alarming that a couple of Chinese businesses have already
dipped their fingers into the controversial Gilgel Gibe III dam project.
It is normally not good news when the Chinese get involved in anything in
Africa. The reputation that precedes the Chinese in Africa is that they do
not care much for the consequences of their projects - as long as they get
what they came for. Their entry into the Gibe III fray should awaken all
of us who care about Lake Turkana, its environment, and its people as well
as the entire Lower Omo basin.
Terry Hathaway of International Rivers first broke the news of the Chinese
companies involvement on September 17 saying:
"NGOs are outraged after confirmation that the world's largest bank will
finance the destructive Gibe 3 hydropower dam. The Industrial and
Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is underwriting a $500 million contract
awarded May 13 to Dongfang Electric Corporation for the dam's turbines and
electro-mechanical works. Although ICBC has not publicly announced the
loan, an official confirmed September 8 by email that the financial
agreement between ICBC and the Ethiopian government was signed in July.
The funding undermines ICBC's efforts to build a global reputation as a
socially and environmentally responsible lending institution."
Earlier on, Peter Bosshard, writing in Huffington Post had indicated, in
August, that China's biggest bank was in discussion with other parties on
whether to fund "Africa's most destructive project." Bosshard says:
"In May, Ethiopia's government announced that the Industrial and
Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) would fund a Chinese equipment contract
for Gibe 3 with a loan of approximately $450 million. ICBC is China's and
the world's biggest commercial bank. Kenya's Friends of Lake Turkana,
BankTrack and International Rivers immediately called on ICBC to stay out
of the project. 'Funding the Gibe 3 Project would seriously damage ICBC's
reputation as a diligent, environmentally responsible bank,' the three
organizations warned in a letter to the bank's CEO."
The Chinese Embassy in Kenya is aware of the opposition by groups led by
FoLT. The Kenya foreign affairs ministry is also aware that the Chinese
bank is intending to fund this catastrophe and FoLT has asked for
intervention. FoLT has prepared a petition that they will deliver to the
Chinese Ambassador in Kenya stating the dangers that this project poses
for the people of Lake Turkana, the Lake's ecosystem and by extension the
people of the Lower Omo basin in Ethiopia, and urging the Chinese
government to advice against this funding.
How China as a nation and the Chinese government reacts to the concerns
raised by a group that represents some of the most marginalised
communities in the world is really a question of whether China cares for
the environment and marginalised communities or cares more about economic
gain - and world domination. Recalling China's entry into the African
elephant ivory trade and the consequent rise in incidences of elephant
poaching and illegal ivory seizures - with very little action from the
Chinese Government - sends chills down my spine. With this bad reputation
among elephant people, China has an opportunity to redeem its image a
little by saying no to the Bank's and Dongfang's involvement in the
killing of hundreds of thousands of livelihoods - and pilaging of a World
Will China show more concern when not only the ecology, but also people
(after all, it is the Peoples Republic of China) are involved? Personally
I hope the Chinese government prevails over the two businesses to abandon
the project, just like others have done before them. Come on China, show
that you care.
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