Civil groups protest over power dam in Ethiopia

Sunday February 20 2011

By NATION CORRESPONDENT

Members of civil society have petitioned the Chinese government against being involved in the building of a controversial mega-dam on the Kenya-Ethiopia border.

The Gilgel Gibe hydropower dam is being built in Ethiopia and is aimed at supplying power to Kenya and other neighbouring countries.

But the protesters, through the Friends of Lake Turkana lobby, termed the project a risk to the environment.

“The dam is going to reduce the Omo river’s flow into lake Turkana, which is the main source of livelihood among the Turkana people, said Ms Ikal Angelei of Friends of Lake Turkana after they marched to the Chinese embassy to deliver a petition calling on China to stop its firms from engaging in a project that is dangerous to the environment.

A number of Chinese firms, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, are financing the project. Companies involved in the project include Exim Bank of China, which finances construction of the transmission line to Addis Ababa by the Chinese Company Tebian Electric Apparatus Stock company.

It was awarded the contract in July 2009. The demonstration coincided with the 3rd UN World Day of Social Justice, which was observed on Sunday.

The dam, to be built on the Omo River, 300km southwest of Addis Ababa, is the largest project to ever be implemented in Ethiopia.

Once completed, it will stand at 240 metres high — to become the tallest dam in Africa — and hold a 211 km2 reservoir behind it.

The work started in 2006 and power production is scheduled to start this year. The dam will be completed in 2012.