|Kwegu and Mursi villagers, Lower Omo valley, Ethiopia. |
Controversial Italian dam-builders Salini Costruttori are embroiled in a new dispute over allegations they leveled at Survival. The clash began after Salini’s project to build Africa’s tallest dam on Ethiopia’s Omo River provoked a storm of criticism.
Salini accused Survival of claiming that the dam’s reservoir would be 15 times its actual size. Survival has made no such claim. We have challenged Salini to substantiate or withdraw the accusation, but they have remained silent.
The dam, called Gibe III, will destroy the livelihoods of 200,000 tribal people who rely on the river and its annual flood to survive.
In a press release, Salini claims the Gibe III dam will actually benefit the Omo Valley tribes. A coalition of experts, several international organizations, and numerous anthropologists, disagree.
Salini started building the Gibe III dam in December 2006, without consulting the local communities. Most of the tribal peoples still have little idea of what is about to happen to the river and its flood, on which they depend.
The Ethiopian government has made consultation almost impossible, and has banned 41 community groups in the area.
In addition to generating electricity for export, the Gibe III dam will be used to irrigate huge areas of land. The government has begun leasing thousands of hectares of land for foreign companies and governments to farm, but the tribal people of the area are losing essential grazing land as a result.
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said, ‘The Lower Omo Valley tribes are going to be completely devastated by the dam, and they’ve never even been asked about it. How can Salini claim a project which violates the very basic human rights of vulnerable tribes is anything other than utterly misguided?’