Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ethiopia's plantations are killing vital waterway - Survival International

Efforts to re-direct the Omo River for irrigation are drying up a key water source for tribes.
Efforts to re-direct the Omo River for irrigation are drying up a key water source for tribes.
© Survival

New photographic evidence proves Ethiopia’s controversial plantations scheme is killing the Lower Omo River, a lifeline for 100,000 tribal people.
The Omo River downstream from the notorious Gibe III dam is now being diverted into a newly-dug irrigation canal, one of several which will feed a massively ambitious plantations scheme for state and private investors. 
These manmade canals are key to Ethiopia’s plantations plan, which is already having a hugely negative impact on UNESCO’s Lower Omo World Heritage site.
The government has revealed virtually nothing about the plantations program, but an official map obtained by Survival shows the enormous scope of the project.
A copy of the leaked Ethiopia map. Survival has highlighted the three resettlement areas.
A copy of the leaked Ethiopia map. Survival has highlighted the three resettlement areas.
© Survival
One local person, speaking to a Survival researcher who recently visited the area, said, ‘I’ve never seen the river this low. During the dry season, like it is now, you can usually cross by foot, and water reaches your knees. Now I could cross without my feet getting wet.’
The Gibe III dam, 200 kms upstream, will interrupt the river’s natural flow and deprive thousands of tribespeople of their most valuable agricultural land by stopping the annual flood.
The flooding of the Omo River feeds the rich biodiversity of the region and ensures tribes such as the Bodi, Mursi and Dassanach can feed their cattle and produce beans and cerealsin the fertile silt left behind.
There was a flood last year, but most Bodi and Mursi were not able to use it for cultivation because of the irrigation project. There will be no flood this year, as the dam reservoir starts to fill, nor in succeeding years. The people have been told they will be given food aid in compensation.
Two Karo boys in front of a full Omo River. Water levels are now unrecognizably low.
Two Karo boys in front of a full Omo River. Water levels are now unrecognizably low.
© Survival
Indigenous communities are also suffering from violent human rights abuses, as plans are implemented forcibly to resettle those who stand in the way of the government’s plans, and to take away their cattle.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Ethiopia’s government is destroying the Lower Omo Valley and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of indigenous people – all in the name of ‘development’. However the human cost cannot be ignored. Re-directing a water lifeline is irresponsible and reckless.’
Note to Editors:
Kenya has recently finalized a deal, which will see it importing electricity generated from Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam.
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Irrigation minister flies to Addis Ababa for discussions over Nile dam | Egypt Independent

Irrigation minister flies to Addis Ababa for discussions over Nile dam

Sun, 25/03/2012 - 15:00
<p>Blue Nile in Ethiopia</p>
Photographed by other
Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Hesham Mohamed Qandil left Sunday for Addis Ababa for a visit that will last for few days. He will meet with the water ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
The meetings will tackle the future of water resources in the three countries. Arrangements will be made for contracting four international experts, chosen by a committee formed by the three governments to evaluate the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam — formerly known as the Grand Millennium Nile Dam — on the Blue Nile.
Qandil said the Ethiopian side will provide technical studies and information about the dam when the contracts are signed so that the committee can start work.
The committee’s work will last around six months, the minister said. It aims to reach a comprehensive evaluation of the procedures the Ethiopian government must undertake to face the negative impacts of the dam.
In April, Ethiopia began work for the construction of the Nile dam, which triggered Egyptian fears that the dam would affect Egypt’s historical share of Nile water.
Egypt, according to a treaty signed with Sudan under the British occupation, is entitled to 55.5 billion cubic meters a year Nile’s flow of around 84 billion cubic meters. According to the treaty, any country wishing to establish any agrarian project must first seek Egypt’s approval.
But Nile Basin countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, signed an agreement in Entebbe in May 2010 that sought a fair redistribution of water shares. This has rattled Egypt and Sudan, upstream countries that enjoy the lion’s share of river water, and brought further tensions between Nile River countries.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: 5,000 People Die Each Day From Water-Related Causes, Most Of Them Children - Forbes

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Secretary of S...
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 22: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, sign a Memorandum of Understanding of World Water day, during an event at the World Bank, on March 22, 2011 in Washington, DC. World Water Day is a international day to celebrate freshwater and was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The UN General Assembly designated March 22, 1993 as the first World Water Day. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Today is World Water Day, and to celebrate the World Bank and the US signed a memorandum of understanding to boost water management efforts.
While some news outlets are currently focused on the US intelligence report that was released today and commissioned by the State Department, it might be helpful to reiterate a fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clintonmentioned in her speech today, and that is:
More than 5,000 people die each day from causes linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene, and most of them are children. Millions of women and girls walk for hours every day to collect water for their households, and some of them put their very lives and physical safety at risk.And by 2025, we believe that it could be as much as two-thirds of the world’s population, including in more areas within developed countries where people will be living under water stress. And that will, in turn, both undermine and impede socioeconomic development,” she said.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick cited the same statistic as this: “A lack of safe water and adequate sanitation is the world’s single largest cause of illness, responsible for two million deaths a year. That’s four people every minute – most of them children.
And that’s happening right now. This seems to be buried among the idea offered up by the intelligence report that water scarcity could lead to war or terrorism after 2022. But by that time 20 million people will have died, most of them children.
Clinton also said that the water crisis can unite people. “
In fact, on water issues, cooperation, not conflict, is and can be the rule,” she said.
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero explained yesterday that the MOU is “really a call for increased political will” on water issues, to raise the discussions from the cabinet level to discussions with the finance ministers or prime ministers.
Otero also spoke about the Nile Basin Initiative as one area where significant progress on water management has yet to be made. Including its tributaries, the Nile flows through ten countries from its two sources, one in Rwanda and the other in Ethiopia, eventually to Egypt emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. Regarding an effort that started 50 years ago, only six countries so far have come to an agreement on how to share the river’s resources. She added in light of what’s happening in Egypt today it will “take some time before it resolves itself.”

From the State Department’s Fact Sheet:
Potential activities supported under this MOU include (but are not limited to):
  • Promotion of new technologies to advance access to safe drinking water and hygiene
  • Rehabilitation of watersheds and wetlands
  • Improvement of irrigation practices to promote water efficiency
  • Utilization of remote sensing data to improve water forecasting and water resources management
  • Mobilization of public-private partnerships and private capital to support water infrastructure and development projects
  • Identification of areas for potential regional and transboundary cooperation
  • Knowledge sharing, joint analytical work and harmonization of information
  • Benefits to the U.S. Government and World Bank:
    • Staff exchanges, expert meetings and knowledge sharing will improve the partners’ technical capacity in water resources management and infrastructure development
    • By leveraging each other’s efforts, both partners will be able use their expertise and resources in a more efficient and effective manner to advance global efforts to better understand and manage water resources
    • U.S. agencies can learn from global best practices and bring shared knowledge back to benefit U.S. communities
    Benefits to the global community:
    • Open up new avenues for bringing expertise to developing countries that need it the most
    • Allow the U.S. Government and World Bank to align their financial resources towards investments in water and sanitation
    • Increase understanding of water at the basin and watershed level to help national governments meet the water needs of their own people
    Source: State Department