Nr. dodgy deals
UN Body Calls for Suspension of Gibe III Dam to Protect World Heritage
Ethiopia, Jul 22 2011
Places like the Grand Canyon, Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China are of such outstanding cultural or natural value that the world's governments have committed to protect and preserve them for future generations. The UN's World Heritage Committee recently called on the Ethiopian government and Chinese financiers to suspend the Gibe III hydropower project to fulfill their obligation for the protection of such a site. Read more about this exciting development.
Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya is the world's largest desert lake. According to the World Heritage Committee, its unique ecosystem has made it "an outstanding laboratory for the study of plant and animal communities." The area's rich fossil finds have allowed reconstructing the history of animal species and mankind over the past 2 million years. Thanks to these unique properties, Lake Turkana was recognized and protected as a World Heritage Site in 1997.
Lake Turkana's umbilical cord is the Omo River, on which it depends for close to 90 percent of its water inflow. The Gibe III Dam, which is currently under construction in Ethiopia, would disrupt this water supply. It would store almost a full year's worth of the river's flow, divert more water for the irrigation of sugar cane plantations, and completely alter the river's natural cycle, on which the fragile ecosystems of the Lower Omo Valley and Lake Turkana have come to depend over thousands of years. A study commissioned by the African Development Bank found that the dam would likely cause a significant drop in the lake's water level, increase its salinity, and threaten the unique ecosystem for which the lake was recognized as a World Heritage Site in the first place.
Lake Turkana is not the only World Heritage Site which is threatened by dam construction. In a report to the Committee, the World Heritage Centre and the World Conservation Union IUCN proposed that "all major dams affecting World Heritage properties (...) should undergo thorough environmental and social impact assessments in line with the international best practice principles, comply with the World Commission on Dams (WCD) guidelines regarding options assessment, public participation, environmental flows, compliance, and benefit sharing, and be submitted to the World Heritage Committee for review and consideration prior to granting of approval."
International Rivers Website
Peter Bosshard is the policy director of International Rivers. He blogs at www.internationalrivers.org/en/blog/peter-bosshard and tweets @PeterBosshard.
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