In July 2006, the Ethiopian Government awarded a contract to an Italian company — apparently without even a call for tenders — for the construction of the dam on the River Omo, known as Gibe III. The dam, which is already at an advanced stage of construction, is supposed to produce 6 500 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year for both domestic consumption and for sale abroad. According to a number of press reports(1), the project appears to have been authorised without any prior assessment of its social and environmental impact, in breach of Ethiopia’s own laws. The EPA (Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority) apparently gave the green light to the work retrospectively, only in 2008, after receiving a file prepared by an agency in Milan which defined the social and environmental impact of the project as ‘negligible’, or even ‘positive’.
However, studies conducted by a number of independent experts state the opposite — namely, that the dam will have a devastating impact on the region’s delicate ecosystem and the indigenous communities living there. According to those experts, indeed, the flow of the River Omo will be drastically reduced, with a break in the natural cycle of flooding that regularly pours water and humus into the surrounding soil, currently making it possible for local communities to farm subsistence crops and livestock. The water will instead be channelled into canals to irrigate the region, in which the Ethiopian Government began, in 2011, to lease huge plots of land to public and private investors specialising in the production of biofuels. The press describes this process as a land grabbing phenomenon accompanied by the forced resettlement of tribes, which has already been initiated by the Ethiopian authorities and is being carried out by using physical and psychological violence(2). Lastly, the dam could also have a very serious impact on the peoples and ecosystem of Lake Turkana in Kenya, into which the waters of the Omo flow. Numerous international bodies and organisations, first and foremost Unesco and Survival International(3), have taken action to protest against this disaster, which will reduce hundreds of thousands of hitherto self-sufficient people to becoming dependent on foreign aid.
1. Is the Commission aware of the dramatic situation taking place in Ethiopia, relating to the building of a dam by a European firm? What is its view of the matter?
2. What measures could it take to help put an end to the violence against indigenous peoples and prevent the destruction of the ecosystem?
There are dozens of such reports — for example, see http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2013/06/21/la-battaglia-del-nilo.html