Apr 15 2013

Gibe III dam | Group warns of ‘catastrophe’ in Omo Valley

April 15, 2013

* Aid agencies turn blind eye to ‘catastrophe’ in Ethiopia
* Three new reports predict disaster in Lower Omo Valley

Three independent reports have warned that the controversial Gibe III dam, and land grabs for plantations, risk imminent ‘catastrophe’ in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley.

Half a million tribal people in Ethiopia and Kenya stand to be overwhelmed by these projects, whose immediate suspension Survival International has demanded.

– Lake Turkana and the Lower Omo – Hydrological Impacts of Major Dam and Irrigation Projects published by the Africa Studies Centre at Oxford University predicts the Ethiopian government’s Kuraz Sugar Project alone will cause Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake, to drop by up to 22 meters. Much of the lake’s aquatic life will be destroyed, including fish stocks vital to the Turkana and other peoples living by the lake.

Bodi, Kwegu and Mursi tribespeople are now being forcibly evicted for the Kuraz project and moved into resettlement areas. Once here, they are told they must sell most of their herds and can only keep a few head of cattle. The Bodi have been told they will only get food aid when they have moved.

– Humanitarian Catastrophe and Regional Armed Conflict Brewing in the Transborder Region of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan published by the Africa Resources Working Group concludes that 200,000 tribal people in Ethiopia and 300,000 in Kenya will suffer irreversible impacts from the dam and plantations.

It warns that because the dam will cause the elimination of the Omo River’s natural flood, the river’s flow will be reduced by 60-70%, and the livelihoods of the tribes who live along its banks and in its plains will be devastated. It predicts ‘major inter-ethnic conflict’.

– The Downstream Impacts of Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam – East Africa’s Aral Sea in the Making? published by International Rivers  warns that the hydrological changes from the dam and associated irrigation for the plantations, which will use fertilizers, may lead to dead zones in the Omo River.

It says that the ‘destruction of livelihoods in the Lower Omo and the coercion necessary to appropriate their lands for plantation agriculture will severely disrupt the lives of an estimated 200,000-300,000  [tribal] people’. It calls for funding for the dam to be halted.

DFID and USAID, the UK and US governments’ aid departments, are the largest single donors to Ethiopia. Both have received numerous reports of human rights abuses in the Lower Omo.

Prompted by Survival International and others, DFID sent officials to the Lower Omo to interview Mursi and Bodi villagers in January 2012. The officials were told about: arrests and beatings; the deliberate destruction of grain stores; of denied access to the Omo River; and of the widespread use of the military to intimidate people into giving up their land. There were also numerous accounts of rape.

DFID took nine months to prepare a ‘report’ of this visit, which concluded that a more detailed investigation would be required to ‘substantiate’ the allegations – since when it has done nothing.

DFID continues to fund Ethiopia’s ‘Protection of Basic Services’ program, without which theforced resettlement of thousands of tribal people probably could not be carried out.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said today, ‘UK money is bankrolling the destruction of some of the best-known pastoralist peoples in Africa. Taxpayers should be outraged, but they probably won’t be surprised. The UK government is renowned for only paying lip service to human rights obligations where tribal peoples are concerned. When it comes to human rights in Ethiopia, DFID’s many commitments are worthless – the department consistently ignores both its own policies and the laudable conventions it has signed up to.’


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  1. momadic

    in egypt (where these projects are seen with fear because of water security issues) we dealt with the same issues when the aswan dam was built over 40 years ago.

    until today, the Nubian people have been living away from the nile where they lived since their venerated ancient civlization alongside the pharoahs, now they live in the desert, marginalized, neglected by the central government

    it was an ecological and humanitarian man made catastrophe for the peoples and areas of this region

  2. Paul Dubois

    South Ethiopia is Suri, Karo, Konso, Banna, Dassanetch, Mursi, Hammar, and all other tribes land since centuries. Some of you criticize the foreign NGO to interfere in ethiopian affairs, but don’t you think use the land of other peoples without their agreement nor compensation is abnormal?

    Ethiopian goverment use latent racism among ethiopians to divide the peoples to better reign. And what happen now to weak and ignorant peoples will soon happen to all ethiopans.

    Peoples from cities born as slaves. Peoples from southern tribes born FREE. Meditate on this.

  3. Kidane

    Survival International and alike are state sponsored mouthpieces targeting on issue of their masters. This is so in the neolibral thinking. As time goes and progress of the dam reached 67%, let them shout and see 100% completed as scheduled – only then they will shut up OR change to another subject of interference, sic