Some 300,000 Kenyans who depend on Lake Turkana – the world’s biggest desert lake – could run short of drinking water and fish if Ethiopia moves ahead with plans to construct two more dams on a river upstream.
The United Nations cultural agency (Unesco) put Kenya’s Lake Turkana, on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites last week because of the “disruptive effect” of an existing Ethiopian dam and irrigated sugar estates over Kenya’s northern border.
“We are concerned that these projects will have implication on the local communities who depend on the lake for fishing and for their livelihood,” said Guy Debonnet, a conservation expert with Unesco.
“Ethiopia is planning two new dams on the Omo river which will only make the situation worse.”
Addis Ababa rejects the claims, saying its own studies show the dam will regulate the river’s flow and stabilise water levels in the flood-prone region.
Also known as the Jade Sea, Lake Turkana, in northwestern Kenya, gets 90 per cent of its water from the Omo River in Ethiopia – one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, using its rivers to generate power for manufacturing and export.
Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam, which was completed in 2016, and irrigation for the Kuraz sugar plantations have already reduced water into Turkana from the Omo River, said Rudo Sanyanga, Africa director of the lobby group International Rivers.