China’s largest bank to fund devastating Ethiopian dam

The Karo (or Kara), with a population of about 1000 - 1500 live on the east banks of the Omo River in south Ethiopia. Here, a Karo mother sits with her children.
The Karo (or Kara), with a population of about 1000 - 1500 live on the east banks of the Omo River in south Ethiopia. Here, a Karo mother sits with her children.
© Eric Lafforgue/Survival

China’s largest bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, is to give a loan of around $400 million for the construction of Ethiopia’s controversial Gibe III dam according to EEPCo, the Ethiopian agency responsible for providing electricity.

Reports indicate another Chinese company, Dongfang Electric Corporation, has been contracted to do some of the work.

Ethiopia is currently searching for funds to complete the Gibe III hydroelectric dam, about a third of which has already been built. The Italian company Salini Costruttori holds the construction contract, although some of the work will reportedly now be taken over by Dongfang.

Survival has written to ICBC urging it not to fund Gibe III, which threatens the food security of at least eight vulnerable tribes in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site.

If Gibe III is completed, it will end the natural flood cycle on the Omo River, which is crucial to the survival of the Lower Omo Valley tribes. Some of the tribes grow their crops in the rich silt laid down along the riverbanks by the flood. The tiny Kwegu tribe fish in the river.

None of the tribes that will be most affected by Gibe III have been consulted. This is a violation of the Ethiopian constitution, and a breach of international standards laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.