Changing Planet

UN puts pressure on Ethiopia over controversial Gibe III dam

Mursi boy, Omo Valley. ©Joey L/www.joeyl.com

 

A Mursi boy from Ethiopia’s Omo valley leans on a stick used for ‘thagine’, the tribe’s ritual duelling, and stares at the camera. His upper arms are decorated with beaded cuffs, his face painted with white clay.

The lower valley of the Omo River is believed to have been a cultural crossroads for thousands of years, where a vast diversity of migrating peoples have converged.  At least eight different tribes, including the Mursi people, live in the region and depend on the river, having developed ecological practices over generations that are intricately adapted to its flooding cycles.

Today, Survival International has released the news that the UN’s concern is growing over Ethiopia’s construction of the Gibe III dam, a vast hydroelectric dam which will block the south-western part of the river, end the Omo’s natural flooding cycles and joepardize the tribes’ sophisticated flood-retreat cultivation methods.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has given Ethiopia until the end of January 2012 to provide reliable evidence that independent assessments have been carried out, and that tribal people in the region have been properly consulted.  The UN’s World Heritage Committee has also written to Ethiopia, calling for it to ‘immediately halt all construction’ and for ‘all financial institutions supporting the Gibe III dam to put on hold their financial support.’

Both the Omo Valley, and Kenya’s Lake Turkana, which is fed by the Omo river, have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

‘If the government dams the Omo Valley tribes’ water, these peoples may not survive’, said Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International.

‘There is no singing and dancing along the Omo River now,’ said a Mursi man.  ‘The people are too hungry.  The kids are quiet.’

 

Joanna Eede was an editorial consultant to Survival International with a particular interest in the relationship between man and nature and tribal peoples. She has created and edited three environmental books, including Portrait of England (Think Publishing, 2006) and We are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples (Quadrille, 2009). Joanna writes for newspapers and magazines on subjects such as the repatriation of wild Przewalski horses to Mongolia, the whales of the Alboran sea, the chimpanzees of the Mahale rainforest, uncontacted tribes of the Amazon rainforest and the Hadza hunter gatherer people of Tanzania. Future ideas include a book about Tibet’s nomads.
  • Florad

    It is sad to see that many people opining against the construction of this dam do not at all understand the context . Ethiopia is a very poor country, with limited sources of foreign currency but extremely dependent on imported oil. If the issue here is reducing the extreme human suffering resulting from poverty, then producing cheap, locally-generated and sustainable hydro energy should be by all means encouraged. Only then can you have more businesses flourishing and people getting chances for employment. People fail to see that the most serious problem for millions of young people in Ethiopia and else where is few opportunities, which are partly related to lack of capital and (energy) infrastructure and services.

    But people opposing this project seem to have a different agenda: they mistake poverty for something else, and they are after defending it. I don’t know where people got this romantic view of the tribal lifestyle which is consistently backward, poor and inefficient. The only reason why people live such a life is because they know not of any better way. These people should be consulted and helped to change. But holding back progress for them is I think a serious mistake, if not a heinous act of crime.

  • ergete yilma

    Ethiopian government is not that much negligent to its own citizens .it has not started the construction without studying the advantages and the disadvantages of the construction to its citizens.as a sovereign nation we do have full right to construct any infrastructure .should we always extend our hands to receive assistance from the West?shame of those who do not want our development.thank you ethiopian gov’t for your smart decision todvelop.

  • Aynalem

    it is important to know this project will have benefit for those people and it is also important to identify the benefit for all Ethiopian people. i think UN’s mission must be finding some method that enable those people to benefit from the project not making them poor for ever.

  • Ere Tewun

    I have a dream when one day all AFRICAN nations will have the right to choose and decide what is right for themselves neglecting Westerns wish and intervention.

  • Milli

    I think its important to remember hot the chinese peopele came to the level they are now in. Nothing is there that will benefit all it’s surrounds 100%. its better to adujust the peoples way of living along with the project. Otherwise only claiming projects will not be come up with solutions. Think the mass that will be benefited from this project, guys.

  • elias

    Please don’t force us to be Poor forever. We are not asking for any body’s help to overcome our problems; We are trying to solve our problems by our own means so please be logical and leave us alone for Gods sake. And UN officials, if you have guts to talk about peoples freedom and also if you really concerned about peoples well-being, then force Israel to return the lands of Palestinians for the peoples of Palestinian and of-course try to solve the problem of the peoples in war such as Somalia and Afghanistan. Just Don’t act like a lion on us; so get-out of our way! we don’t have ears for such a mean thing!

  • adola

    I believe that the ethiopian government didn’nt undertake any project without consulting the local community. So, this report is not accepted.

  • Abraham

    We Ethiopian do have eyes 2 see, ears 2 hear, hands 2 touch… Those de so called WESTERN don’t try hard 2 see, hear, touch… 4 us. Let us alone! Who r u 2 guid us?

  • Abreham Teshome

    Don’t u think we,Ethiopian, have no eye 2 see,no ears 2 hear,no hands 2 touch? Why u,WESTERN, try hard 2 see, hear&touch 4 us. Do u want us beg u 4ever? Pls, live u alone! 2 make fast our development!

  • Hillu Iluu

    Florad wrongly assumes the dam when completed will benefit the local people. Numerous examples from such projects in past indicate this will not going to be the case. One example is the case of the Fincha Dam in western Oromia region. The local people did not even get the chance to benefit from the electric power the dam generated. While they live in the dark, electricity is siphoned off from their land and water and taken to northern Ethiopia where all the past and present rulers of Ethiopia originated from. The fate of the tribal peoples in the Omo valley is not going to be any different if the dam is allowed to be constructed. It is wrong to assume the Ethiopian government is interested in improving the livelihood of the tribal peoples. Its sole interest is too loot and and siphon the gain to the north and in to the pockets of those on power.
    Ergete and Aynalem missed what those concerned about the construction of the dam are saying: Allow the local tribal people to have a meaningful role in the decision making and present credible evidence that the scientific environmental impact study has been carried out by impartial third party. This is what the Ethiopian government is refusing to do.

  • Bete

    The whole archive looks quite biased. The arguements given opposing the construction of the dam are so weak. I don’t know why they are always refusing everything that develops Ethiopia

  • Give me a Break!

    what a statement “sophisticated flood-retreat cultivation methods”, then how do you explain the starvation in Omo region? Unless you have a different agenda, you can not really believe that a clean-reusable energy is bad for people and can’t bring change in the life of Ethiopian in general, and the Omo people in particular.

  • Desta

    At this time the hole world is suffering from scarce & altrnative of re newable energy does not give any sense opposing not to construct this dam,go a head ethio gov’t

  • Abdi

    People around the Omo valley will be negatively impacted much like people around Lake Koka (Awash Dam). This is reality of building a dam on water ways. Missing this conceptually is overlooking scientific and historical evidence http://www.gadaa.com/LakeKoka.html

  • Ethiopian American (Pen Name)

    I would like to provide my sincere appreciation for Ms. Joanna Eede and Survival International on behalf of Ethiopian Americans and the Omo Valley region people of Ethiopia for bringing the truth on the travel for the voiceless. This project is a perfect example of irresponsible development while our world is marching towards sustainable development. The entire project from financing to construction is a shady practice and one would learn the truth if they dig deeper. This Dam is not an isolated incident as there is a massive land grabbing controversy not far from this region.

    Also note that Ethiopia that ranks at the bottom of every international economic and political index: It is among the countries in the world with the lowest per capita incomes and highest inflation and unemployment rates. The ruling regime has been classified as one of the worst violators of human rights in the world.

    1. I differ with Ms Florad Brisbane (possibly a pen name of Ethiopian government cadre) statement that many people opining against the construction of this dam do not at all understand the context. I say to you that there is no defense for irresponsible development and what is merely asked is the truth by providing reliable evidence conducting an assessment by an independent entity. It is a standard business practices that eliminates conflict of interest issue.

    For those that do not know and the author, the Ethiopian regime utilizes cadres that asses websites who typically use pen names to mimic the names representing the people and the international public to counter any argument that comes against, they do it all the time. Most Ethiopians know how the regime is corrupt to its teeth. I recommended people to read the latest article on another related matter using this URL. Karuturistan, Ethiopia: The Fire Next Time? (http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/2011/10/16/karuturistan_ethiopia_the_fire_next_time )

    There is no harm for independent assumed and transparency fro such a massive scale project is a must, only thos who fear the truth are against it.

    Ethiopian American, CA

  • Ethiopian American,

    I would like to provide my sincere appreciation for Ms. Joanna Eede and Survival International on behalf of Ethiopian Americans and the Omo Valley region people of Ethiopia for bringing the truth on the travel for the voiceless. This project is a perfect example of irresponsible development while our world is marching towards sustainable development. The entire project from financing to construction is a shady practice and one would learn the truth if they dig deeper. This Dam is not an isolated incident as there is a massive land grabbing controversy not far from this region.

    Also note that Ethiopia that ranks at the bottom of every international economic and political index: It is among the countries in the world with the lowest per capita incomes and highest inflation and unemployment rates. The ruling regime has been classified as one of the worst violators of human rights in the world.

    1. I differ with Ms Florad Brisbane (possibly a pen name of Ethiopian government cadre) statement that many people opining against the construction of this dam do not at all understand the context. I say to you that there is no defense for irresponsible development and what is merely asked is the truth by providing reliable evidence conducting an assessment by an independent entity. It is a standard business practices that eliminates conflict of interest issue.

    For those that do not know and the author, the Ethiopian regime utilizes cadres that asses websites who typically use pen names to mimic the names representing the people and the international public to counter any argument that comes against, they do it all the time. Most Ethiopians know how the regime is corrupt to its teeth. I recommended people to read the latest article on another related matter using this URL. Karuturistan, Ethiopia: The Fire Next Time? (http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/2011/10/16/karuturistan_ethiopia_the_fire_next_time )

    There is no need to fear independent assessment as transparency is a must for such a massive scale project, only those who fear the truth are against it.

    Ethiopian American, CA

  • Solomon getachew

    the only way is to explain the world, by any means. Let good hearted listen this, late those people around the world who try to help the wolo hanger. Then that is the only means to balance the support to gibe dom is one of the result of ethiopian pray. Ethiopia is the mother the people of omo to.

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