International environmental groups continue to protest against the construction of Gibe III, the biggest hydro-electric dam in Ethiopia. The latest protest, which took place on 20 February, saw campaigners protesting outside the Chinese embassy in Nairobi, Kenya to petition the Chinese government against financing the controversial dam.
Ethiopia says that when it goes operational, the project will generate 95 per cent more power than is presently available in Ethiopia. With an annual capacity of 1900MW electric power Ethiopia will have the ability to sell electricity to neighbouring countries.
However opponents to the mega-dam argue that it will devastate the fragile ecosystems present in the lower Omo Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site and home to several tribes. The valley runs for 760km from the Ethiopian highlands to Lake Turkana, on which half a million farmers, herders and fishermen rely for their livelihoods.
Experts argue that the dam will have grave consequences for the region's delicate ecosystem by altering the seasonal flooding of the Omo and reducing its downstream volume, resulting in the drying out of much of the river zone.
Located 450km southwest of Addis Ababa, near the border with Kenya, Gibe III is the largest project of its kind to be implemented in Ethiopia and will be Africa's second largest hydroelectric dam after the Kariba dam on the Zambesi river. Under construction since 2006 by Italian company Salini Costruttori, some 3,000 Ethiopians and foreigners are currently involved in the project.
With an original budget of