Gibe III Dam

What is affected
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 01 July 2006
Region AFA [ Africa anglophone ]
Country Ethiopia
Location Lower Omo River area

Affected persons

Total 100000
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution
Details Gibe III Dam factsheet-International Rivers.pdf
Forced eviction

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative

The Lower Omo River in south west Ethiopia is home to eight different tribes whose population is about 200,000. They have lived there for centuries. However the future of these tribes lies in the balance. A massive hydro-electric dam, Gibe III, is under construction on the Omo. When completed it will destroy a fragile environment and the livelihoods of the tribes, which are closely linked to the river and its annual flood. Salini Costruttori, an Italian company, started construction work on the Gibe III dam at the end of 2006, and has already built a third of it. Soon, both the African Development Bank and the Italian government will decide whether to fund the dam project as requested by the Ethiopian government. Survival and various regional and international organisations believe that the Gibe III Dam will have catastrophic consequences for the tribes of the Omo River, who already live close to the margins of life in this dry and challenging area. The Lower Omo Valley is a spectacularly beautiful area with diverse ecosystems including grasslands, volcanic outcrops, and one of the few remaining ‘pristine’ riverine forests in semi-arid Africa which supports a wide variety of wildlife. The Bodi (Me’en), Daasanach, Kara (or Karo), Kwegu (or Muguji), Mursi and Nyangatom live along the Omo and depend on it for their livelihood, having developed complex socio-economic and ecological practices intricately adapted to the harsh and often unpredictable conditions of the region’s semi-arid climate. During the dry part of the year, when the water table drops, the Nyangatom, Mursi and other tribes of the area dig deep holes in river beds to water their cattle and to get drinking water. The annual flooding of the Omo River feeds the rich biodiversity of the region and guarantees the food security of the tribes especially as rainfall is low and erratic. They depend on it to practice ‘flood retreat cultivation’ using the rich silt left along the river banks by the slowly receding waters. 
 They also practice rainfed, shifting cultivation growing sorghum, maize and beans on the flood plains. Some tribes, particularly the Kwegu, hunt game and fish. Cattle, goats and sheep are vital to most tribes’ livelihood producing blood, milk, meat and hides. Cattle are highly valued and used in payment for bride wealth. They are an important defence against starvation when rains and crops fail. In certain seasons families travel to temporary camps to provide new grazing for herds, surviving on milk and blood from their cattle. The Bodi sing poems to favourite cattle. Other peoples, such as the Hamar, Chai and Turkana, live further from the river but a network of inter-ethnic alliances means that they too can access the flood plains, especially in times of scarcity. Despite this co-operation there are periodic conflicts as people compete for natural resources. As the government has taken over more and more tribal land, competition for scarce resources has intensified. The introduction of firearms has made inter-ethnic fighting more dangerous. For years the tribes of the Lower Omo Valley have suffered from the progressive loss of access to and control of their lands. Two national parks were set up in the 1960s and 1970s where they are excluded from managing the resources. Tourists can go on safari and hunt for game on tribal lands yet the tribal peoples themselves are banned from hunting. This has resulted in increased malnutrition. In the 1980s, part of their territory was turned into a state-run irrigated farm and recently the government has begun leasing out huge tracts of tribal land to foreign companies and governments so that they grow cash crops including biofuels. The tribal peoples who have been using the land for generations to grow their own subsistence crops and to graze their livestock, have had no say in the matter. Although the Ethiopian Constitution guarantees tribal peoples the right

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