A soure within the African Development Bank has told the Ecologist that the building of a controversial dam in Ethiopia cannot be stopped and will go ahead with or without international assistance.
At 240 meters high, the Gibe III dam would be the largest in Africa and would double the country's electricity generation capacity.
But NGOs have said it will threaten the livelihoods of 500,000 tribal people and devastate fisheries in Kenya’s Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake.
‘Gibe III is the most destructive dam under construction in Africa. The project will condemn half a million of the region’s most vulnerable people to hunger and conflict,’ said Terri Hathaway, director of International River’s Africa Program.
Construction on the dam began in 2006 and is now 35 per cent complete, but the Ethopian government is reportedly asking international banks for $1.4 billion to complete the project.
The African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank have been conducting their own assessments of the project but have so far not committed to providing finance.
However Azeb Asnake, project manager for Gibe III today said that the EIB and AfDB were backing the project.
‘When we meet with the EIB and the AfDB they are very supportive. I know that they are going to support this project, they are on board,’ said Asnake.
She also rejected claims that the project would adversely affect people downstream in Kenya.
‘Kenya is the major beneficiary of this project. We are going to supply them with power. They are working on the agreement to provide power right now.’
She accused NGOs of ‘going against the spirit of Copenhagen’ by opposing the project and said they were ‘trying to deprive Africans of the right to electrification.’
In a show of support for the project, the African Development Bank said the dam would improve the lives of people living downstream directly and indirectly.
‘It allows the flow of water to be controlled so as to prevent flooding and will actually lead to a greater flow of water into Lake Turkana,’ said a representative from the AfDB.
They also rejected claims from NGOs that the Italian company building the dam had not bid competitively for the project.
‘Normally there should be an independent bidding process but Salini were already working in Ethiopia. It’s not unusual to give a company some additional work,’ they said.
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