New Super Dams and New Dry Lakes in the Age of Solar Power within the topic “wetlands” and “transborder development” I come across more and more lack of sense in some development plans within this need of quick and productive development. I do understand development needs, I am an active supporter of relevant development, as I see the sense in having big investments in products like electric energy, for human settlements in East Africa and elsewhere.

But if we would redraw the borders of a nation as, for example, the peoples served by the same source of water, same forest or same ocean front, will we then become more mindful of each other?

The line between having an opportunity and being greedy has been erased by economic benefits. In the case of Lake Turkana, Ethiopia will produce electric energy, cotton and sugar that will be exported to Kenya. Kenya will pay for all these in cash and something extra – about 20 meters decrease in the lake`s water.

But haven`t we already seen lakes and seas turn into desert? And for how long will we still call hydro power “green” if it continues disturbing ecosystems and affect communities reliant on waters? Seriously, don`t we have sufficient sun in Africa to get solar powered?

“Lake Turkana is the world’s largest desert lake, a World Heritage site, and livelihood source to at least 300,000 indigenous peoples in Kenya. Hydropower and irrigation developments underway on the Omo River, upstream in Ethiopia, portend ecological collapse of the lake and fisheries, and threaten the delicate survival means of already resource-scarce communities.

The Gibe III Dam is the third of five planned hydroelectric dams on the Omo River in Ethiopia. Gibe III will be one of the tallest dams in Africa and was designed to produce 1,870 megawatts (MW) of hydropower per year. As much as 900 MW will be exported, of which 500 MW will go to Kenya. The dam will also enable significant amounts of water to be abstracted from the river to irrigate large sugarcane and cotton plantation. The total planned irrigated land area is almost equal to the entirety of the current irrigated area in Kenya, and these crops are highly water-intensive.

Lake Turkana gets approximately 90% of its inflow from the Omo River. Studies by an independent water resources expert have shown that with up to half of this inflow being abstracted for irrigation, the lake level will drop by over 20 metres; while its current average depth is ~30 metres. The consequences from this drop will be catastrophic for Lake Turkana’s delicate ecosystem and the lives of 300,000 people who depend on it, in addition to having far-reaching environmental, social, and economic impacts.

Ethiopian and international law requires that a comprehensive, transparent and internationally verifiable environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) is carried out for any proposed development activity prior to approval. The Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) released an ESIA three years after dam construction began. This ESIA was not independent and did not consider downstream effects of the commercial plantations, nor of the planned Gibe IV and V dams, while impacts on Lake Turkana were ignored.

In 2010, after carrying out preliminary evaluations, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the EIB (European Investment Bank) noted the severe human rights abuses in this process and withdrew considerations for funding Gibe III. Apart from investments directly from the Ethiopian government, the only known outside investors are the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and the World Bank.

All community members are opposed to the dam and irrigated plantations, as it will deprive them of their livelihoods and lead to increased famine, conflict, and death. Suggestions for action range from using force to stop the dam, the Kenyan government standing up for the people of Turkana and Marsabit, engaging the Ethiopian government, donor withdrawal of funding, compensation for the affected communities, and finding alternative sources of green energy. Their messages to the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments and the international community reflect their despair, and feelings of helplessness, anger, and betrayal.”

from “Come and Count our Bones” by Narissa Allibhai, International Rivers Consultant, January 2015

In my past years of development work I have researched, witnessed and supported many great solutions for sustainable development including basic services, food security and economic productivity that do not harm the environment. If we scale up and duplicate projects, lets`s do that with the good examples.

Is 2016, and we run concepts from circular economy, to permaculture,  solar powered electric energy, we are even allowed to talk about brother Tesla and his theories on producing wireless electric energy. How come we still vote for destruction of our own environment?

I wish in a generation of mindful developers.

I wish in a generation that is taught to link where the resources come from and their real cost.

I wish in a generation that is reading more, questioning more, researching more, watching less TV and more independent documentaries.

I wish in a generation that is part of nature, not against it.


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