NGO wants Kenya, Ethiopia power deal blocked

June 14, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – An organisation championing the conservation of Lake Turkana has moved to court to block the Government and Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) from purchasing 500 MW of power from Ethiopia.

The power is being generated from a dam being built on Lake Turkana’s main source – River Omo.

The Friends of Lake Turkana who have been seeking to block the construction of Gibe III dam claim that the livelihoods of 300,000 people living around the lake would be wrecked if Kenya supported its construction and entered into an agreement to buy power from the controversial dam.

“The affected communities are heavily dependent on the lake both for fishing and as a water resource not to mention their historic and cultural attachment to it,” Joshua Angelei, a director of Friends of Lake Turkana said in court papers. “The Lake will simply not survive and the livelihood of the 300,000 people who directly and indirectly depend on it will be irretrievably devastated.”

He asked the court to compel the government to stop the interference of the river’s water flow and conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.

Through Kemboy and Company advocates, the conservationists pleaded with the court to issue an injunction against the Kenyan government and KPLC so that five indigenous communities that depend on Lake Turkana are not wiped out.

“In purchasing the 500MW from Gibe III project which endangers the lives of the affected communities, the Government of Kenya is acting unconstitutionally in a manner likely to contravene the rights of the affected communities thus warranting the intervention of this court,” the lawyers state in the court documents.

International environment organisations led by the United Nations Environmental Program UNEP and other conservationists like Dr Richard Leakey have warned against the construction of the dam and said it would have serious impact on the water levels of the lake. 

The Gibe III dam is being built on River Omo which supplies 80 percent of water into Lake Turkana. Dr Leakey had warned the dam’s construction was likely to damage the local economy, degrade biodiversity and increase the risk of cross border conflict in the region which is already crippling with internal conflicts.

According to court documents, feasibility studies carried out had raised several concerns including the permeability, structural stability, shear strength and economic feasibility of the dam.

The African Development Bank and the World Bank who were to fund the projects pulled out citing lack of transparency as well as the absence of a competitive bidding process in the selection of the main contractor, according to court documents.

Apart from purchasing the 500MW from Gibe III, Kenya and Ethiopia had also agreed to a grid connection of $800 million between the two countries.

The High Court is yet to give dates when the case will be heard.


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