Dakar, Senegal – At the annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Dakar, a controversy erupted today over the Gibe 3 Dam, a large hydropower project in Ethiopia that the AfDB is considering funding. A coalition of African civil society groups in Dakar met with AfDB staff and warned that the dam would have devastating impacts on affected people and the environment in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. The groups called on the AfDB to reject funding for the dam when it takes up the project in June.
The AfDB staff defended the Gibe 3 Dam and expressed hope that the project’s social and environmental impacts could be mitigated.
In the meeting, Ikal Angelei, the chair of Friends of Lake Turkana in Kenya, described the impacts of the dam on the region’s affected communities, warning, “the dam will destroy the natural flood cycle of the Omo River, on which 200,000 people depend for their flood-recession agriculture and their very livelihoods. The reservoir will seriously curtail the flow of water into Lake Turkana, and cause its water level to drop by 7-10 meters. This will destroy hundreds of square kilometers of riparian forest, seriously impact fisheries, and destroy the food security of 300,000 people. If built as currently proposed, the Gibe 3 Dam will spread hunger and resource conflicts in the region.”
Robert Kugonza, coordinator of African Rivers Network, based in Uganda, explained that the Gibe 3 contract was awarded to Italian construction company Salini without any competitive bidding, which violates Ethiopian law and the AfDB’s procurement policy. Kugonza called this “an open invitation to corruption. At this time of financial crisis, the AfDB cannot afford to squander resources on projects that violate its own policies and international standards.”
Following the meeting, Mamadou Goita, the executive director of the Institute for Research and the Promotion of Alternatives in Development in Mali, explained, “the Gibe 3 Dam violates the AfDB’s own policies on environmental and social assessment, poverty reduction, resettlement, public disclosure, and water management.” Friends of Lake Turkana and International Rivers have already submitted complaints to the AfDB’s investigative unit. Goita said, “the AfDB should only support the Gibe 3 Dam if it can be brought into compliance with its own social and environmental safeguard policies.”
If built, the Gibe 3 Dam on the Omo River in Southern Ethiopia, at a height of 240 meters and a price tag of 1.55 billion Euro, would be Africa’s tallest dam, Ethiopia’s biggest infrastructure investment and one of the largest projects ever considered by the African Development Bank.