Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ethiopia: Revealed - How Ethiopia's Plantations Are Killing Vital

New photographic evidence proves Ethiopia's controversial plantations scheme is killing the Lower Omo River, a lifeline for 100,000 tribal people.
The Omo River downstream from the notorious Gibe III dam is now being diverted into a newly-dug irrigation canal, one of several which will feed a massively ambitious plantations scheme for state and private investors.
These manmade canals are key to Ethiopia's plantations plan, which is already having a hugely negative impact on UNESCO's Lower Omo World Heritage site.
The government has revealed virtually nothing about the plantations program, but an official map obtained by Survival shows the enormous scope of the project.
One local person, speaking to a Survival researcher who recently visited the area, said, 'I've never seen the river this low. During the dry season, like it is now, you can usually cross by foot, and water reaches your knees. Now I could cross without my feet getting wet.'
The Gibe III dam, 200 kms upstream, will interrupt the river's natural flow and deprive thousands of tribespeople of their most valuable agricultural land by stopping the annual flood.
The flooding of the Omo River feeds the rich biodiversity of the region and ensures tribes such as the Bodi, Mursi and Dassanach can feed their cattle and produce beans and cereals in the fertile silt left behind.
There was a flood last year, but most Bodi and Mursi were not able to use it for cultivation because of the irrigation project. There will be no flood this year, as the dam reservoir starts to fill, nor in succeeding years. The people have been told they will be given food aid in compensation.
Indigenous communities are also suffering from violent human rights abuses, as plans are implemented forcibly to resettle those who stand in the way of the government's plans, and to take away their cattle.
Survival's Director Stephen Corry said today, 'Ethiopia's government is destroying the Lower Omo Valley and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of indigenous people - all in the name of 'development'. However the human cost cannot be ignored. Re-directing a water lifeline is irresponsible and reckless.'
Note to Editors:
Kenya has recently finalized a deal, which will see it importing electricity generated from Ethiopia's Gibe III dam.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam/ Millennium dam after 1 year - YouTube

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam/ Millennium dam after 1 year - YouTube: ""

'via Blog this'

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ethiopia pursues controversial dam project Al Jazeera English

Ethiopia is pursuing a massive dam building project that it hopes will generate alternative sources of power, but critics have said the endeavour will be an environmental disaster.
The government embarked on the project - expected to be the largest hydropower plant in Africa - to help solve a national energy crisis and to help turn Ethiopia's economy around.
"The rural population will get electricity, the amount of megawatts we are going to produce is for all the population. It is not only for industry or towns it is for all nation," Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopia's energy and water minister, told Al Jazeera.
Foundations have already been laid at the Gibe III dam, in Oromia in western Ethiopia. When completed, the dam's 243-metre high wall will be the tallest of its kind in the world.
"Once finished, the electricity generated at this one dam will be enough to double Ethiopia’s power capacity, and there are other dams under construction," Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri reported from the dam site.
"The plan is for electricity to become Ethiopia’s biggest export."
Controversy and criticism
Conservationists have criticised the project on the grounds that the dam's huge reservoir will take time to fill, and by then the flow of the Omo River, in southwestern Ethiopia, would have dramatically reduced.
Conservationists said the biggest impact would be felt downstream along the lower Omo valley and Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
Ikal Angelei, a local conservationist with Friends of Lake Turkana, told Al Jazeera that when the dam is finished the lake could shrink by a third.
"We want them to use that water in the river that's fine. But let us do it in a way that we can assess and see what impact it’s going to have; do we have enough flow in five or 10 years; [and] will we have the same amount of flow?
"Do we want to see Lake Turkana dry up?"
Some 80 per cent of Lake Turkana’s water comes from the Omo River.
The Ethiopian government has said that the flow of Omo will not change.
But many critics are unconvinced. There is even a Stop Gibe III campaign which alleges that the creation of the dam "will jeopardise the river’s fragile ecosystem forever and dramatically affect the life of about 500.000 people living in southwest Ethiopia and northern Kenya".

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ethiopia’s Omo Valley: a Global Heritage Under Threat | International Rivers

Cheetah cub (Muhammad Mahdri Karim)

Cheetah cub (Muhammad Mahdri Karim)

The national parks of the Lower Omo Valley in Southwest Ethiopia are among “the last unspoiled biodiversity hotspots in Africa” and constitute “resources of all people in the world.” These are not the words of tree-hugging foreign environmentalists, but of Ethiopian government officials who recently prepared a report about the region. The Gibe III Dam and the sugar plantations associated with it are now putting these unique biodiversity hotspots at risk.

The remote Lower Omo Valley is home to eight different indigenous peoples, three national parks and a World Heritage Site. According to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, the region preserves the “outstanding biodiversity of the country,” with more than 300 bird and more than 80 large mammal species. It is a refuge for elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, buffaloes, gazelles and other species.

The unique wildlife of the Lower Omo Valley is not a rich man’s luxury. As the Wildlife Authority points out, it supports the livelihoods of the local people through wild food, medicinal plants, subsistence hunting, and revenues from tourism activities. The biodiversity also “plays a significant role” in helping the region cope with the impacts of climate change.

Map of Lower Omo sugar plantations

Map of Lower Omo sugar plantations

The sensitive ecosystems of the Lower Omo Valley are now under threat. The Gibe III Dam, which is currently under construction upstream of the national parks, will allow the creation of large sugar plantations and other cash-crop farms that are irrigated with water from the Omo River. A government map which was just leaked to International Rivers delineates sugar plantations with a total area of 2,450 square kilometers – almost the size of Luxembourg – which are largely carved out of the national parks (see image). The plantations are part of a government plan to increase the country’s sugar production from 300,000 to 2.3 million tons.

The lands which have been designated as sugar plantations have been inhabited by indigenous peoples since time immemorial. The government has already started putting pressure on the local Mursi and Njangatom communities to move into resettlement camps under its control. International Rivers receives regular updates about the harassment, rape and imprisonment of tribal people in the Lower Omo Valley by security forces.

“We are the original people of these areas, we know the land and the land knows us,” reads one appeal from December 2011. “This is our ancestors’ land and we do not need rich people to come to us and play on us like they play football. Now the government is going to clear our tribes out like it is clearing the bush from our land for sugarcane. Tell them to go away from here!”

So far no social or environmental impact assessment for the sugar plantations has been completed. Even so, a new report by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority recommends a series of measures to mitigate their impacts on the region’s national parks. The proposed measures include the extension of the national parks to compensate for lost land, the creation of corridors within the plantations to protect the seasonal wildlife migration, and the investigation of the social and economic impacts of the plantations on the local communities.

The Ethiopian Sugar Corporation is under direct control of the country’s Prime Minister, and is politically untouchable. The Wildlife Authority is not free to ask whether turning one of Africa’s most valuable biodiversity hotspots into sugar plantations can be justified. It does not assess either what impacts the water withdrawals for the plantations will have on the fragile ecosystem of Lake Turkana, which sustains 300,000 people and depends completely on the inflows of the Omo River. The new report does make a valuable contribution by documenting what is at stake when indigenous lands and national parks are turned into agricultural export processing zones.

Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers. He blogs and tweets @PeterBosshard.