Friday, July 20, 2012

Human Rights Watch raise concerns over Kenya, Ethiopia Gibe III dam project.

Ethiopian herders at the lower end of the Omo river where the controversial dam Gibe III is set to be built
Kenya’s quest to get power from Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam project by 2014 may receive a setback after Human Rights Watch wrote to World Bank, a major financier against the project.
The rights watchdog have written to WB saying they should stall the funding of the 1,000 kilometer transmission line to the country from the 240m high dam, tallest in Africa, in Southern Ethiopia with a capacity to produce 1,870 megawatts of electricity citing abuse of human rights.
But yesterday Thursday WB agreed to fund the project even though it doesn't meet its project assessment.
 “The World Bank should ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment are rigorously protected before funding a power transmission line connecting Kenya to the controversial dam in Ethiopia” Human Rights Watch said in a letter to President Jim Yong Kim ahead of Thursday meeting on the project.
“The World Bank shouldn’t think that it’s fine to fund a transmission line while closing its eyes to abuses at the power source, where rights of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people are threatened by the Gibe III dam without protection ” Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions advocate at HRW said in statement posted on their website.
The project is set to double Ethiopia's current power generating capacity which will see excess power being exported to neighboring countries like Kenya whose 80 percent of the population don’t have access to electricity.
Apart from exporting the power, the Ethiopian government is going to use power from the dam supplied by the Omo River which also gives 90% of Lake Turkana water, to supply electricity for her 245,000 hectares of state-run irrigated sugar plantations and other projects.
According to HRW “the dam and related agricultural plans are also likely to dramatically decrease water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana to further increasing competition over scarce resources for the additional 300,000 indigenous people who live around Lake Turkana.” The statement says.
The site of the Gibe III dam
Apart from Kenya there have been serious implications of Ethiopia’s sugar plantations project where over 200,000 indigenous residents of the Lower Omo have been forcefully relocate by security forces to affect the loss of grazing land and cultivation sites as they rely on the 760KM long Omo River for their survival.
“State security forces have used intimidation, assaults and arbitrary arrests when people questioned the relocation or refused to move even though The United Nations in 1980 named the area a World Heritage because of its special cultural and physical significance” the statement says.
WB requires that projects it funds should follow and mitigate against adverse environmental and social impacts especially if it will affect loss of livelihood by calling on adequate compensation to at least maintain their previous living standard.
“WB is set to undermine these policies by approving the power transmission line to Kenya with the source of energy highly questionable” the statement says adding that environmental and social assessment should be done on the project on indigenous people before funding the transmission line.
Jim Yong Kim the 12th WB president who took the office on July 1 is faced with his first big test to commitment to human rights and environment issue on the funding of the transmission line to Kenya.
 “Kim should show the people of Ethiopia and Kenya that he will stand for their rights. That means not letting this project proceed until the bank has taken adequate steps to prevent serious harm to peoples’ rights and livelihoods” Evans, the HRW official says.
©Manuel Odeny 2012

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