The air in Ethiopia may catch fire, as plans for a new hydroelectric dam on the Omo River spark tensions in a region with long-lasting conflicts over scarce water. A government project to tame the river’s unpredictable annual cycle has raised the anger and suspicion of local tribes, who rely on Omo’s flooding for their survival, the BBC reports.
According to the Ethiopian government, the Gilgel Gibe III Dam – the second largest dam in sub-Saharan Africa and the third major construction in a series of hydroelectric projects in the Ethiopian region – is being built to regulate flooding in the Omo region. But while authorities say the new dam will not affect the river flow, indigenous communities fear they will lose the precious flood waters that nourish the land traditionally used for farming and grazing.
A group of European, American and East African academics – including ecologist Richard Leakey – have also expressed skepticism regarding aspects of the infrastructure project, saying that the project might trigger a water war among local people. As the tribes have seen their lands emaciate between new national parks and big commercial landholdings, they are prepared to fight over decreasing resources.
But what looks on the surface like a rusty relationship between locals and the bureaucratic machine, really points a situation deteriorating into and beyond paranoia.
“I don’t think the government likes the Omo tribes. They are going to destroy us,” a senior community told The BBC, while another local added, “Let them first bring helicopters to kill us all; then the government can build its dam.”
Source: The BBC
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.