Friends of Lake Turkana demonstrate against China's involvement in building a giant hydroelectric dam, Gilgel Gibe 3.
Friends of Lake Turkana demonstrate against China’s involvement in building a giant hydroelectric dam, Gilgel Gibe 3. © Friends of Lake Turkana

Kenyans have demonstrated against a hydroelectric mega-dam being built in neighbouring Ethiopia, over fears that it will devastate hundreds of thousands of lives in both countries.

Led by the organization Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT), the protesters marched this week to the Chinese embassy in Kenya, demanding Chinese banks and companies drop their support for the dam.

The dam, called Gibe 3, is being built across the Omo River which originates in Ethiopia and is the major source for Kenya’s famous Lake Turkana.

The Omo is a lifeline for 100,000 tribal people in Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as many others who rely on Lake Turkana for their livelihood. None of them have been properly consulted about the dam, which will fundamentally alter the river’s flood pattern and jeopardize the tribes’ sophisticated flood retreat cultivation methods.

The European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank have both decided not to fund Gibe 3. Ethiopia is looking toward China to make up some of the funding shortfall; the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Exim Bank of China are both involved in aspects of the project.

Ikal Angelei, director of FoLT, this week described the construction of the Gibe 3 dam as, ‘the most outrageous social injustice of our time’.

FoLT, together with Survival, the Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank, International Rivers and the Counter Balance coalition, are gathering a petition to stop the dam.

Hydroelectric dams are being built on and near indigenous territories around the world at an alarming rate. Survival’s report, Serious Damage, highlights the threats they pose to tribal peoples. Three Amazon Indians are currently visiting Europe to raise awareness about the dams threatening their communities in Peru and Brazil.