Giant Dam Threatens Lake Ecosystem and Indigenous Livelihood

gibe

Target: Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation

Goal: Before completion of dam, take significant, long-lasting measures to protect local populations and ecosystems.

Along the Omo River in Ethiopia, construction of Africa’s highest dam plows forward amid desperate calls for dialogue and cooperation with indigenous populations who stand to be drastically affected by the completion of the dam. While the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPC) continues building plans of the Gibe III dam, half a million people living downstream, and those who depend on Lake Turkana, are left helpless and voiceless to experience whatever consequences may flow their way.

The hydro-power dam, standing nearly 800 feet tall and scheduled to be completed in 2014, is a $1.8 billion endeavor which projects to provide electricity for many Ethiopians currently living without it. However, such a massive construction project to control the river, which provides 80 percent of the water to Lake Turkana downstream, cannot simply be plopped down without major eco-ripples reverberating permanently through the nearby environment.

For instance, the dam would dramatically affect the flood-retreat agriculture practiced by indigenous tribes downstream, such as the Bodi, Mursi and Nyangatom. This practice is an integral part of the cultural tradition and livelihood of these peoples who have learned to move with the flow of the dry and rainy seasons for centuries. This sacred balance teeters ever more precariously with every moment a new cement block is laid in place.

Furthermore, the steady flow of water into Lake Turkana will be greatly reduced, resulting in more than a thirty foot drop of water level. The lake water will increase in salinity, making it undrinkable for the hundreds of thousands of people who use the lake as a water source. In addition, many fish species will perish in higher salinity levels compounding the loss of biodiversity with a major blow to local fishing industries.

Clearly, the dam’s future massive production of electricity present great economic and social benefits that are not to be ignored. However, these benefits in no way permit ignorance of the imminent biological and cultural consequences. With more than fifty percent of the dam already completed, construction is not likely to be stopped.

Thus, it is imperative that Ethiopia’s government and the EEPC make genuine strides to increase outreach efforts to local communities and environmental organizations. Solutions that engage local cultures and promote ecological stability are needed before the potential ill effects of the Gibe III dam become a permanent, entrenched reality for a people and a place.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation,

Construction of the Gibe II dam has drawn the ire of many environmental and human rights groups. However, building plans continue and seem to be an inexorable truth. Thus, I am writing not to ask you to cease these plans, but to increase your communication and cooperation with local indigenous populations who stand to be greatly affected by your dam, as well as local environmental groups concerned with the ecological consequences.

Regardless of the energy incentives involved in the dam project, which I understand are formidable, valued input must be given to people downstream who rely on the Omo River and on Lake Turkana. Their homes, their families and their environment will never be the same once this dam is completed.

Hence, it is your great responsibility to ensure a smooth, sustainable and safe transition. If building plans plunge forward without any such concern or significant measures, full destruction of culture, environment and human life may ensue. I urge you to act now before you, and all parties involved, run out of time.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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