Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kenyans to protest Chinese involvement in Ethiopia's Gibe III Dam

Kenyans to protest Chinese involvement in Ethiopia's Gibe III Dam
African Press Agency, 2011-02-17

APA-Nairobi (Kenya) Members of civil society and other concerned
individuals in Kenya are on Sunday, 20 February 2011 scheduled to stage
a peaceful protest march to petition the Chinese government against the
involvement of several Chinese companies in the ongoing construction of
the controversial and potentially devastating Ethiopian Gilgel Gibe III
mega-dam, says a press release issued in Nairobi on Thursday.

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 that could escalate
resource-based conflict between communities living around the
Kenya-Sudan-Ethiopia border. The march will coincide with the 3rd UN
World Day of Social Justice.

The mammoth $1.7 billion Gibe 3 Dam project to be constructed on the Omo
River, some 300 kilometres south-west of the Ethiopian capital Addis
Ababa, is the largest project to ever be implemented in Ethiopia. Once
completed, it will stand at 240 metres high - to become the tallest dam
in Africa - and hold a 211 km2 reservoir behind it. Construction begun
in 2006 and the first power production was scheduled for 2011, while the
dam would be completed in 2012. Ethiopia hopes to produce 1,870
megawatt, more than double the country's current installed capacity and
make $400 million from power export to Kenya, Sudan and Djibouti.

Communities living within the Omo River-Lake Turkana basin are opposed
to this project that will inflict permanent damage to their way of life
and peace in the region. Damming the Omo River 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 - which depends on
the river for 90% of its water - especially during the period of filling
up the reservoir. "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.

Due to the project's unpopularity and its potential social and
environmental injustices, various prospective donors - including the
World Bank and the European Investment Bank (US$341 million loan) –-have
withdrawn their support. The African Development Bank was also
considering funding the project. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of
China (ICBC) has stepped in and offered to finance a $500 million
contract awarded in May 2010 to Dongfang Electric Machinery Corporation
for the dam's turbines and electro-mechanical works. Other Chinese
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 Co. Ltd, which was
awarded the contract in July 2009.

Friends of Lake Turkana and concerned organizations will be delivering a
petition against these Chinese companies' involvement in the project
demanding that the banks withdraw their funding and the construction
companies exit from the 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 concludes.

Friends of Lake Turkana was formed after a few Kenyans became privy to
information that the Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia will lead to unacceptable
tradeoffs that jeopardize indigenous economies and destroy the eco-system.

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