20 February 2011
By NATION CORRESPONDENT
Members of civil society have petitioned the Chinese government against
being involved in the building of a controversial mega-dam on the
The Gilgel Gibe hydropower dam is being built in Ethiopia and is aimed
at supplying power to Kenya and other neighbouring countries.
But the protesters, through the Friends of Lake Turkana lobby, termed
the project a risk to the environment.
"The dam is going to reduce the Omo river's flow into lake Turkana,
which is the main source of livelihood among the Turkana people," said
Ms Ikal Angelei of Friends of Lake Turkana after they marched to the
Chinese embassy to deliver a petition calling on China to stop its firms
from engaging in a project that is dangerous to the environment.
A number of Chinese firms, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank
of China, are financing the project. Companies involved in the project
include Exim Bank of China, which finances construction of the
transmission line to Addis Ababa by the Chinese Company Tebian Electric
Apparatus Stock company.
It was awarded the contract in July 2009. The demonstration coincided
with the 3rd UN World Day of Social Justice, which was observed on Sunday.
The dam, to be built on the Omo River, 300km southwest of Addis Ababa,
is the largest project to ever be implemented in Ethiopia.
Once completed, it will stand at 240 metres high ï¿½ to become the tallest
dam in Africa ï¿½ and hold a 211 km2 reservoir behind it.
The work started in 2006 and power production is scheduled to start this
year. The dam will be completed in 2012.
Groups to protest against China-funded Ethiopian dam
February 18, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) - International conservation groups,
members of civil society and other concerned individuals will on Sunday,
20 February 2011 stage a peaceful protest march to petition the Chinese
government against the involvement of several Chinese companies in the
construction of a controversial dam.
The activists say the hydroelectric dam "threatens" the survival of
hundreds of thousands of indigenous people throughout the Lower Omo
Valley in Ethiopia and around Lake Turkana in Kenya.
According to campaigners, if completed, the Gibe III Dam will devastate
the fragile ecosystems of the lower Omo Valley and Kenya's Lake Turkana,
on which 500,000 poor farmers, herders and fisher folk rely for their
Campaigners also fear that the dam would reduce the flow of water into
Lake Turkana. The dam would flood a huge area, creating a 150km-long
lake. The groups have been urging western donors and banks not to fund
the Gibe III hydroelectric dam project.
But Ethiopia's government disagrees, saying that the dam is needed to
generate electricity and will not affect its flow. Power generated out
of it will be used for its population and to sell power abroad and the
advantages outweighs for the whole country, the local communities, and
even for our neighboring countries, including Kenya, Addis Ababa says.
Led by the civil society group, Friends of Lake Turkana, the protesters
will deliver a petition, signed by more than 2,000 organizations and
individuals, to the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China in Nairobi,
seeking the intervention of the Chinese government to either bar or
advice the companies against involvement in this "environmentally,
socially and culturally harmful mega-project".
The petition also claims that the dam could trigger a resource-based
conflict between communities living around the Kenya-Sudan-Ethiopia border.
Construction began in 2006 and if completed on the dam would be Africaï¿½s
second largest hydroelectric dam.
Up on completion in 2012, Ethiopia hopes to more than double the
countryï¿½s current capacity and export power export to Kenya, Sudan and
Communities living within the Omo River-Lake Turkana basin are opposed
to the project saying that it will inflict permanent damage to their way
of life and peace in the region. Damming the Omo River, they say, will
permanently change the river's flood patterns which the Ethiopian
communities living in the lower Omo basin have depended on for
centuries. It will also reduce or completely cut out inflow of water
into Lake Turkana ï¿½ which depends on the river for 90 percent of its water.
"These drastic changes will irreparably destroy the lives of some
700,000 already disadvantaged people in both Kenya and Ethiopia", said
Ikal Angelei, director of Friends of Lake Turkana.
Friends of Lake Turkana and concerned organizations will be delivering a
petition against the involvement of Chinese companies in the project
demanding that the banks withdraw their funding and the construction
companies cancel their contracts.
"Construction of Gibe III is the most outrageous social injustice of our
time," said Angelei.
"These companies have an obligation to uphold the rights of our people,
who have been marginalized and victimized for far too long by their
oppressive and neglectful regimes," she said.
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