Reject False Promise of Ethiopia's Gibe 3 Dam

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Berkeley – From May 13-14, the African Development Bank (AfDB) holds its annual meeting in Dakar, Senegal with the theme, Africa and the Financial Crisis: an Agenda for Action. The financial crisis calls for the wise investment of dwindling capital flows. Yet AfDB directors currently consider funding a project that serves special interests but hurts the poor and the environment: the disastrous $1.7 billion Gibe 3 Dam in Ethiopia.

Gibe 3 would be one of the largest infrastructure projects ever funded by the AfDB. Through its devastating social and environmental impacts, the project would spread war and famine in a region that is already affected by climate change. By funding Gibe 3, the AfDB would squander scarce resources and undermine its claim to become Africa’s premier infrastructure financier.

If built, the dam will wreak havoc with the Omo River’s natural flood cycle, and will reduce food security of up to half a million poor farmers, herders and fishers. Gibe 3 will affect ecosystems and disrupt communities all the way to the world’s largest desert lake, Kenya’s Lake Turkana. An oasis of biodiversity in a harsh desert, Lake Turkana supports 300,000 people and rich animal life. The Gibe 3 Dam would severely curtail the lake’s inflow, reduce water levels, increase salinity, affect fisheries and push the lake’s vulnerable ecosystem to the brink of collapse.

Kenyan NGO Friends of Lake Turkana and an NGO coalition led by International Rivers have already submitted two complaints regarding Gibe 3 to the AfDB’s independent investigative unit. The complaints assert that the project violates five binding AfDB policies. Ms. Ikal Angelei, the Friends of Lake Turkana chairperson, will be in Senegal for the AfDB meetings.

Construction of the Gibe 3 Project began in 2006 with flagrant violations of Ethiopia’s laws on environmental protection and procurement. The contract was awarded without competitive bidding to Italian construction giant Salini, raising serious questions about the project’s integrity. Project impact assessments were prepared after construction began and disregard the project’s most serious consequences.

International Rivers is part of a global coalition demanding that the Bank only finance projects that comply with its social and environmental standards and host country laws. Consideration of Gibe 3 should be suspended until a thorough review and consultations with all affected peoples have taken place.  The AfDB should in the meantime help Ethiopia drought-proof its energy sector, diversify its energy mix, and tap its abundant renewable energy resources.  

With our presence in Senegal, and from our offices in California and Cameroon, International Rivers and our allies will be a resource to the global media as they cover the AfDB meetings.

More information about the Gibe 3 Project is available at

With staff in five continents, International Rivers is an international environmental and human rights organization. For over two decades, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the communities that depend on them.