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Gibe III hydroelectric dam: a "catastrophe" imminent in Ethiopia

Three independent reports state that the controversial Gibe III dam and land grabbing for plantations, may cause an imminent "disaster" in the lower valley of the Omo in Ethopie. Half a million native of Ethiopian and Kenyan river residents will be affected by these projects including Survival International calls for the immediate suspension.

Lake Turkana and the Lower Omo - Hydrological Impacts of Major Dam and Irrigation Projects, published by the Centre for African Studies at the University of Oxford provides that Kuraz Sugar Project from Ethiopian government will cause a drop of 22 meters from water level of Lake Turkana, the largest lake in the world in a desert environment. Most of the aquatic fauna, vital to the Turkana and other neighboring tribes will be destroyed.  

The Bodi, the Mursi and the Kwegu are forcibly evicted to make way for Kuraz project, being taken to relocation camps where they are told to sell their herds and keep only a few head of cattle. It was announced to the Bodi that they will not benefit from food aid until they have agreed to be moved. Humanitarian Catastrophe and Regional Armed Conflict Brewing in the Transborder Region of Ethiopia, Kenya and Soudan, published by the Working Group on Africa resources, concludes that 200,000 Ethiopian indigenous and 300,000 from Kenya will suffer irreversible impacts of the dam and plantations. It indicates that the dam will stop the natural flood of the Omo River, reducing its flow will from 60 to 70% and the livelihoods of riverside plains tribes will be destroyed. It predicts a "major ethnic conflict."  

The Downstream Impacts of Ethiopia's Gibe III Dam - East Africa's Aral Sea in the Making, published by International Rivers announced that changes in the hydrological regime due to the dam and associated irrigation for plantations using fertilizers will lead to kill all life in some areas of the Omo. The report states that "the destruction of livelihoods in the lower Omo and the necessary coercion to gain the land and replace them with agricultural plantations seriously affects the life from 200 to 300,000 indigenous residents". It calls for the cessation of funding the dam.

The British Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are the main donors in Ethiopia. Both have received numerous reports of violations of human rights in the lower Omo Valley. DFID representatives who visited last year the Mursi and Bodi villages were informed about the arrests, violence, seeds destruction, intimidation and rape.  

In January 2012, pressed by Survival International and other organizations, DFID has sent representatives to interview the lower Omo Mursi and Bodi who informed them about arrests and violence, the deliberate destruction of seed stocks, the prohibition of access to the Omo River and the deployment of the army to intimidate residents and force them to leave their land. They are also pointed out numerous cases of rape.   It took nine months to make the DFID report on his visit which concluded that further investigation is expected to "confirm" the allegations.

DFID has however nothing yet undertaken. DFID and USAID continue to support the Ethiopian program "Protection of basic services," without which the forced relocation of thousands residents probably would not have occurred. Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said : "The British funds finance the destruction of some of the most famous pastoral peoples of Africa, which should scandalize the taxpayers, but they probably will not be surprised.

The British government is famous for its lip regarding its obligations to the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. Besides, DFID commitments on human rights in Ethiopia have no value since the institution ignores both its own standards and conventions to which it is a party". 

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