Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ethiopia's Gibe III - A dam too far? | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Dasanech woman washes her clothes in lake Turkana<br>&copy; Photo: Luc van Kemenade - http://www.rnw.nl/africa
Ethiopia's Gibe III - A dam too far?
Published on : 20 December 2011 - 3:24pm | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo : RNW)
More about: Dasanech tribe Ethiopia dam Kenya Lake Turkana Turkana tribe
Michael Irgiena doubts if his ten children will ever be fishermen like him, or have any future living on the shores of the world’s largest desert lake Turkana in the barren border region of Ethiopia and Kenya.

By Luc van Kemenade, Addis Ababa

Lake Turkana, in the barren border region of Ethiopia and Kenya, is home to the Dasanech and Turkana tribes. Michael, a Dasanech tribesman living in a small village in northern Kenya, has been a fisherman for 26 years and, like his fellow tribesmen, he fully depends on the salty lake for his livelihood.

The semi-nomadic desert tribes often fight bloody battles over the region's scarce water and pasture which they use for fishing and cattle grazing. But the construction of an ambitious cascade of dams along Ethiopia's Omo river may pose a serious threat to the livelihood of nomads in the region, explains Michael.

“I was shocked when I heard the news about Ethiopia’s dam on the radio,” he says while sitting on his bed in his dusky dome-shaped hut at the shores of Turkana. “What came to mind very quickly was: what about the lake I am fishing in? What about my children?”

Michael Irgiena

Michael Irgiena<br>&copy; Photo: Luc van Kemenade - http://www.rnw.nl/africa

Gibe III is a two billion dollar dam funded by the Ethiopian government and one of Africa’s largest hydropower dams in the Omo River that flows into Lake Turkana. It provides 90 percent of the region's water and is said to have nearly doubled the power capacity of East African nations.
According to the Ethiopian government, the dam will develop the region and end a “backward lifestyle”, transforming its southern wilderness into highly productive cultivated farm land, irrigated by the dam’s regulated outflow. It is hoped that domestic and foreign investors will grow sugar cane and other cash crops on a large-scale in the south, an area known for its numerous indigenous tribes.

But Michael is more cautious. “The water will be too salty, so there will be no fish living in the lake,” he says. “And all the animals we have, all the cattle, will die. If there is no water, there will be no grass.”

He also fears the dam will lead to further bloodshed among tribes, as the Dasanech and Turkana will be forced to move into neighboring tribes’ territory in search of water and pasture.

Drying up
While Ethiopia denies that its dam will reduce water levels, a group of scholars from the United States, Europe and East Africa shares Michael’s concerns.

In a 2009 study the Africa Resources Working Group estimated that water levels could drop ten to twelve meters drying up fish stocks and potable water. The United Nations subsequently called on Ethiopia to cease construction of the dam, fearing it would destroy Lake Turkana, listed as a UN world heritage.

But Ethiopia says there is “no way” that the project will be stopped, claiming its own studies show that Lake Turkana’s water levels would increase and the dam’s regulated flow would put an end to drought and floods.

Like other members of the Dasanech, Michael fears that Ethiopia’s decision to move forward with the project without informing its people will have a negative impact: “If you do something without informing people, you know it will have an effect,” he says. “It would be better if we all sit together and negotiate about what they are going to do for our people.”
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nile Waters -Terms Of Reference Agreed For The International Panel Of Experts On The Nile Dam

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week a tripartite meeting of ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, was held here in Addis Ababa. Attended by Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water and Energy and the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources of the Republic of Sudan, the aim of the meeting was to discuss and to agree on draft terms of reference for the establishment of the International Panel of Experts being set up to assess the impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. After discussions and exchanges of ideas on the draft it was adopted with certain amendments.

In accordance with the TOR the three countries have agreed to form an International Panel of Experts with ten members in all, two experts from each of the three countries and another four international experts. The meeting agreed on a time frame for the nomination of national members, two weeks from the end of the meeting. The names of the independent international experts are to be agreed within four weeks of exchanging of the names of the respective national teams. The work of assessing the impact of the Renaissance Dam on the downstream countries is expected to be finalized within nine months but this can be adjusted according to the request of the panel itself.

Ethiopia’s Minster of Water and Energy, Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, said the meeting had immense significance and opened a new chapter of cooperation by enhancing transparency, the exchange of information, trust and confidence among three sisterly countries. He indicated that several of the studies undertaken on the Nile had clearly shown that there was ample potential and a real window of opportunity for further development and it was these findings that that had lead to the initiation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Minister stressed that Ethiopia was in need of huge energy resources to satisfy an ever growing demand, but the dam would also serve as the initiative to boost regional economic integration. Dr Hesham Kandil, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resource and Irrigation, and Engineer Kamal Ali, Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water, expressed their appreciation for the holding of the Tripartite Ministerial Meeting to establish the International Panel of Experts. They both emphasized that the meeting was a manifestation of cooperation among the three countries and indicated it would form a good foundation for future and lasting cooperation, both for the Renaissance Dam and in other areas.

Before the ministerial meeting opened, experts from Ethiopia and Egypt discussed the decisions passed at the third and fourth meetings of the Ethiopia–Egypt Joint Ministerial Commission to establish the Technical Advisory Committee aimed to provide smooth implementation of cooperation between Ethiopia and Egypt in the areas of water resources and irrigation. During this meeting, the Technical Advisory Committee developed its rules of procedure and agreed an action plan for the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two governments on 17th September regarding cooperation on Water Resources and Irrigation. The Arab Republic of Egypt has allocated two million Egyptian pounds for the capacity building and training for this year. According to the action plan Egypt is offering PhD programs to three candidates, MSc programs for seven candidates and other short term annual training over the next years for Ethiopian students. The two countries are also working to strengthen and renew their bilateral relations. During its visit, the Egyptian delegation took the opportunity to visit the Addis Ababa University’s Faculty of Technology. --mfa