Mr. Jiang Jianqing
Chairman and Executive Director, ICBC
No.55 FuXingMenNei Street, Xicheng District
Beijing 100140, China
May 13 2015
Concerns regarding ICBC involvement in Gibe 3 Hydropower Project (Ethiopia)
Dear Mr. Jiang Jianqing,
International Rivers is an international environmental organization, which works to protect rivers and the communities that depend on them. On behalf of the organization, we would like to again express our concern about the Gibe 3 Hydropower project in Ethiopia, and share with you some information and briefing from our organization regarding the social and environmental impacts of the project.
In 2010, together with another two organizations, we wrote you a letter regarding ICBC’s support for Gibe 3 project (attached) when we heard the announcement by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation that ICBC has agreed to fund the Gibe 3 project. In that letter, we raised a number of concerns including the potential impacts on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, reduced water flow into Lake Turkana, the livelihoods of indigenous people, end of natural flood in Lower Omo Valley, resources conflicts and serious technical, economic and financial risks. To date, ICBC is still the only international financier of this dam, having decided to fund the project regardless of the controversy in August 2012 with a loan for a USD500 million turbine contract.
Five years has passed, the Gibe 3 Dam now is nearing completion in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo basin. The dam will bring major hydrological changes to Lake Turkana and the Omo River. The filling of the Gibe 3 reservoir has begun, which is expected to take up to three years. During this time, the river’s yearly flow will drop as much as 70%. Associated irrigation projects are expected to make the reservoir filling hydrological changes a permanent reduction in flow.
According to a study from Oxford University, the dam will interrupt the annual flood of the Omo River, which sustains the agriculture, grazing lands and fisheries of the region. The filling of the Gibe 3 reservoir will lower the water level of Lake Turkana by 2 meters. The study also raised that once the dam is completed, the conflicts over natural resources such as water, fisheries and grazing will escalate and may spiral out of control.
In late 2014, International Rivers conducted a trip to Lake Turkana and heard the communities’ concerns about the dam. Findings from this field trip were described in a report in January 2015. Among the report’s findings: Awareness of the dam’s impacts and development process in the communities is extremely low; and all community members are opposed to the dam and irrigation projects, as it will deprive them of their livelihoods and lead to increased famine, conflict, and death. Local communities expressed their suggestions. They requested that the Kenyan government stand up for the people of Turkana and Marsabit, and ask for pressure from international donors to withdraw funding for the dam, provide compensation for the affected communities, and help promote alternative energy solutions for the region.
It is acknowledged internationally that Gibe 3 project violates the principles of China’s Green Credit Policy and that the project has extensive social and environmental problems. We believe that ICBC always obeys national and international policies and laws and is willing to follow the best standards, and ultimately cares about its international performance because it reflects directly on China’s global image. China is putting a lot of effort on ecological civilization and sustainable development since 18th CPC National Congress. We believe the policy should not only implement domestically but also be reflected from China’s overseas investment.
Therefore, we kindly suggest that:
ICBC should conduct its own investigations so that it is fully aware of and considers solutions for the dam’s destructive impacts to the hydrology and ecosystems of the Omo River, Lake Turkana and the indigenous communities who depend on those natural resources. Lessons need to be learned from Gibe 3 project, and in learning these lessons, ICBC should not involve in the further hydropower development in Omo River, such as Gibe 4 and 5 – unless measures can be put into place that would maintain local livelihoods and avoid the shrinking of Lake Turkana.
ICBC should avoid investment in controversial hydropower projects and countries with weak governance like Ethiopia and Honduras (Patuca 3 Hydropower Project). In those countries, there are limited institutional legal frameworks and investors bear responsibility for major and unmitigated risks, most of which will harm those countries’ poorest people.
Finally, we would be happy to provide ICBC with further up to date information about the Gibe 3 Project particularly regarding local people’s concerns and international views about the project. For further information, please contact our Executive Director, Peter Bosshard: peter@internationalrivers.