Stop Gibe 3 Dam

I’ve been keenly following news about dam projects in Etyopia. We have all heard about the Nile river and the potential of dams since we were kids.

lem aferachin wede gibts eyefesese…“. I still remember the face of some of my school teachers as they talked about how we have failed to use our resources. I now get super excited when I read about dam projects finishing or new ones starting.

If you have noticed, there is some strong opposition to the Gilgel Gibe 3 Dam project. Today I decided to delve into the debate a bit more and went to stopgibe3.org. There are various organizations behind it. I read their summary of what they think are the negative impacts of the dam. I also read some documents and papers they have there.

Some of the stuff was disappointing. Some insulting. Some made good sense and some was downright stupid.

I’ll explain why.

Main impacts

Let’s start with their list of main impacts of the dam.
  • The dam will stop the annual Omo flood on which 100,000 farmers and pastoralists depend on.
I agree with this. The number of affected people may actually be larger than that. Environment changes in one part of the world affects other areas too, and we’re still in the process of understanding the dynamics of our environment. To start with, I wouldn’t be surprised if rainfall in the broader region is affected.
  • Reduction of land may result in resource conflict.
I agree with the fact that resource shortage will result in a conflict.
  • The dam reservoir will increase malaria.
True.
  • The dam will drown sacred areas and displace people.

True.

And then the conclusion comes: stop the dam project. Their page The Story of Gibe 3 starts off with one and only one statement about the power generation capacity of the dam. From that point on though, everything they talk about is the negative aspects of the dam, all concluding to one thing: stop the dam project. This is what I find downright stupid.

I cut my finger. I’m concerned. I head to the bathroom looking for some dettol. Unfortunately bathroom floor has just been cleaned and it’s slippery. I slip and fall, badly hurting my wrist. My finger, although part of my body, is negligible now. It is in the interest of my finger and the rest of my body that I give attention to my wrist first.

Do answer your phone. But you have more things to worry about if your phone rings while you’re being bitten by a dog.

Is the dam any good?

The dam is being built for the whole country. Whether the dam is useful or not should be argued based on not just consequences on people near the river but all Ethiopians, and even neighboring countries as well. Simply stating all the kind of things that can go wrong does not make a logical argument.

A report made six years ago puts the number of electricity customers in Etyopia to a little less than one million. Of course a customer is usually a group of people (such as a household). So the number of people with access to electricity is much larger than the number of customers. Although I couldn’t find a good information about this, various pages I’ve read seem to indicate electricity coverage of 10% to 20% of the population. For argument sake let’s say Etyopia currently has 30% electricity coverage.

This is still not enough. In Addis Abeba only, there are scheduled and random blackouts, hindering businesses, factories, education (schools rely on pre-recorded videos as major means of instruction), hospitals and many other important functions.

stopgibe3 has yet to think about how the dam will benefit the Ethiopian people, and which by the way, the people near the river are part of.

Can we do better than dry land, mosquitoes and conflict?

There is something concrete behind the saying “There is always a way”. It reminds us we will find a way out if we keep searching for it. We are smart enough to build machines that glide in the air carrying hundreds of people. We are smart enough to fly into space and look back on Earth. We are smart enough to replace a person’s heart. And when it comes to the issue of building dams and relocating ourselves? Do we stay dumb and lie around the river to get bitten by mosquitoes? Do we we fight for a patch of fertile land with spears?
No. We move to another region and adapt ourselves. We negotiate with each other so that we can share our resources better. What I find disappointing about stopgibe3.com is they have closed their minds on what can be improved. Instead they are happy suggesting Ethiopians go back to a state where electricity coverage is poor and the people near the river back to their fragile “indigenous” state.

Is the current situation ideal?

The point I find insulting is how they view the current state of things as the ideal situation. The people rely on flood retreat cultivation. This means they use the rich soil left over when a flood dries out. So the water level is crucial to their survival. This is one of their “strong points” against the dam because the dam will disrupt the river level. However, how can one expect flood retreat cultivation to be reliable even without the presence of a dam? More rainfall means they get flooded. In fact, 456 people have died before due to flooding.

Here is a quote from one of their documents,

Omo Valley was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO because of “The discovery of many fossils there, especially Homo gracilis, has been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution”.

Yes, people should sleep in the dark to preserve the world heritage for tourists to take good pictures and post them on facebook. Don’t mind schools. Kids like it when they’re told there’s no class. There is always another day for businesses. Hospitals, well, surgery can always wait.

Having said that, they do make strong points, such as the people not being consulted about the matter. However, it should be noted that people all over Ethiopia, from 4 kilo in Addis Ababa to villages in remote areas, get displaced when some investor shows interest in a land or when the government decides to start some project. It still doesn’t make it right that the people have not been consulted but let’s keep the overall state of things in mind.

I hope people at stopgibe3.com and others like them spend their effort on helping minimize the side effects.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Xavier
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 17:24:00

    This dam is a monster and an insult to the people living there. That is there land , and whatever you think about there culture or there way of living, this is not worst than your one. Who are you to pretend to be the best and know the best for those people? They have, at first, the right to be there and decide over there own future. Stop the damned Gibe 3 Dam !

    Reply

    • tibebe
      Jun 17, 2011 @ 14:50:00

      please don’t make it a “them” and “us” situation. there is just “us” -the etyopian people.

      if the post was not enough to convince you of the soundness of the idea of the dam, then i am afraid i would be hard put to add more reasons.

      but if i may ask, why do you care so much whether the dam gets built or not? vested interest, or the high that comes from pretending (yes, i am using your word) to care about other people? and it is not like your people (i think you are portugese) have a great track record of caring about other people and their heritage; you pioneered the slave trade for crying out loud sakes! i am addressing your people because you were talking about my people. for all i know, you may just be a do gooder who is not afflicted by his people’s curse i.e. racism and such.

      so, with all due respect, get off your high horse, and mind your business.

      Reply

    • getere
      Jun 18, 2011 @ 01:03:56

      Xavier:
      They are being dismantled from their region inappropriately, with no good procedures and little consideration of their preferences. So my emphasis on my post was to push for a better way of dealing with the change instead of proposing the dam doesn’t get built all in all. Ethiopia doesn’t have the luxury of drawing circles all over the country and marking them as untouchable. We can’t afford to leave things as they are for the sake of preserving old outdated ways. People have to be able to support themselves and standup for themselves. We can’t do that with spears.

      Reply

  2. tibebe
    Apr 11, 2011 @ 14:32:36

    believe you me, come ginbot 20, ehadeg is going to tout it as its biggest achievement of the past 20 (give or take 1000) years (even though it has not even been built yet) which has not and would never have been realized by derg esepa or zewdawiw agezaz. but that’s aight, i have moved on from the petty stuff; i am all for ethiopia; and a bright idea every 20 years doesn’t hurt.

    but even if the dam gets built (i don’t think i will live to see its completion, but that’s besides the point) it may not be a silver bullet for our problems. and it will sure take attention away from a lot of important stuff. i hate all the hullabaloo now and i fear it may turn out to be a fad.

    maybe that’s just the cynic in me.

    can’t you buy the bonds from where you are?

    Reply

    • getere
      Apr 18, 2011 @ 19:05:50

      Commercial Bank of Ethiopia sells the bonds,

      http://www.combanketh.com/bond.php

      Minimum is 500 USD but I’m considering getting one. What’s not clear to me know is how people from abroad can get their application processed. The Ethiopian Embassy in London is too far.

      Can residents in Ethiopia buy bonds? I don’t see any reason to limit the offer to diaspora.

      Reply

      • tibebe
        Apr 19, 2011 @ 15:42:43

        noticed the name change.

        another option is you send the money here, and someone buys the bond in your name.

        by residents do you mean to say foreigners?

        Reply

  3. getere
    Apr 10, 2011 @ 21:30:33

    i’m excited about that too. it worries me that there is a lot of opposition to it and its an expensive dam. if i was in ethiopia i’d happily support the project by buying the bond they’re selling.

    in my view, stories about the project being part of meles’ and ehadig’s overall plan to keep ethiopia poor by building a dam belong with the various crazy conspiracy theories (alien landings, a large hairy humanoid called Bigfoot, take your pick). money will be lost through corruption at various levels for sure. but i don’t think the answer is to wait until we come to a non-corrupt system which is never ever going to happen. they can throw the Tsera Musina Commision on this one too. neither do i think the solution is to wait until the government is overthrown and a party that everyone is happy with starts ruling the country, which will never happen either. people should get that improvement is a process and it happens in all levels, it’s not something that happens overnight. i do hope they’ve made an extensive study a project this big requires. it’d be a big loss if the project is discontinued in the middle.

    Reply

  4. tibebe
    Apr 07, 2011 @ 15:57:15

    say, man! i’d love to hear your opinions on the abay millennium (i hate the name) gidib. it is very much the zahir these days.

    Reply

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