If completed, the Gilgel Gibe series of dams on Ethiopia’s Omo River will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric installation. Planned to comprise a series of 5 cascading hydro-dams, the World Bank has provoked controversy by providing the credit to build a thousand kilometer transmission line from the dams to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. This latest decision represents a complete u-turn for the World Bank, which had previously indicated it was refusing credit on the basis of its own Safeguard Policies study.
Photojournalist Daniel Sullivan’s short film (2010—above) focuses on the catastrophic consequences posed by the dam for the indigenous tribes of the ancient Omo valley—cradle ground of the human race.
Descending from the central Ethiopian plateau, the Omo River meanders across the country’s parched southwest before spilling into Kenya’s Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. The Omo River is a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of indigenous farmers, herders and fishermen, who depend on its nourishing floods to sustain their most reliable sources of food.
But Ethiopia’s plans to build Gibe III Dam threatens the food security and local economies that support more than half a million people in southwest Ethiopia and along the shores of Kenya’s Lake Turkana. Construction began in 2006 with flagrant violations of Ethiopia’s own laws on environmental protection and procurement practices, and the national constitution. The project’s US$1.7 billion contract was awarded without competition to Italian construction giant Salini, raising serious questions about the project’s integrity.
Find out more at the International Rivers website.
- The Friends of Lake Turkana website.
- Survival International – the Omo Valley tribes.
- The BBC’s multimedia report on the Gibe dams.
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