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if you ever wanted to paint yourself with earth and flowers

August 4, 2010

…watch this:

I would like to leave you with the dreamy feeling I have, wishing for a peaceful place and a life so in tune with plants, animals, and the seasons. But the people of the Omo valley may not have long to live this life. It’s a familiar story: a giant dam is going to everything.

Read more about it and do what you can to help if you’re so moved. Thank you, Kris, for the video.

In July 2006 the Ethiopian government signed a contract with the Italian company Salini Costruttori to build Gibe III, the biggest hydro-electric dam in the country. In violation of Ethiopia’s laws, there was no competitive bidding for the contract.

Work started in 2006 with a budget of 1.4 billion euros. One third of the dam has already been built and costs are escalating.

The dam will block the south western part of the Omo River which runs for 760 kms from the highlands of Ethiopia to Lake Turkana in Kenya. The Lower Omo Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site, in recognition of its archaeological and geological importance. Here the Omo flows through the Mago and Omo National Parks, home to several tribes.

Ethiopian environmental law stipulates that an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) must be carried out before any project is approved. Despite this, the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the ESIA retrospectively, in July 2008, two years after construction work started.

The ESIA was carried out by an Italian company, CESI, and paid for by EEPCo (Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation) and Salini, raising questions over its independence and credibility. Its report, published in January 2009, found in favour of the project, stating that the impact on the environment and tribes concerned will be ‘negligible’ and even ‘positive’.

According to independent experts, the dam will have an enormous impact on the delicate ecosystem of the region by altering the seasonal flooding of the Omo and dramatically reducing its downstream volume. This will result in the drying out of much of the riverine zone and eliminate the riparian forest.

If the natural flood with its rich silt deposits disappears, subsistence economies will collapse with at least 100,000 tribal people facing food shortages.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2010 4:35 pm

    thanks so much for sharing the info on the dam. (I was much happier before I knew all of that though.) Hope the campaign to stop it is successful…

  2. August 6, 2010 7:29 pm

    the images of the omo tribes people in botanical regalia are exquisite and compelling. as for the legal decision making of the countries involved in the dam making – how frustrating… how many similar situations have occurred elsewhere? you think “those in charge” would know better… but there’s obviously another motive driving their decision making.

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