Ethiopian dam’s ecological and human fallout could echo Aral Sea disaster

Study suggests irrigation projects linked to Gibe III dam could devastate Lake Turkana’s fisheries and affect livelihoods
John Vidal

A fisherman cleans his catch in Lake Turkana. A study warns the Gibe III dam project could devastate the lake's fisheries. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters
A fisherman cleans his catch in Lake Turkana. A study warns the Gibe III dam project could devastate the lake’s fisheries. Photograph: Siegfried Modola/Reuters

(theguardian) Africa’s fourth-largest lake could drop by 20 metres, causing an ecological and human disaster to rival the shrinking of the Aral Sea in central Asia, if Ethiopia goes ahead with massive irrigation projects linked to a giant dam, according to a university paper.

Lake Turkana, located almost entirely in Kenya but fed by the river Omo, which rises in Ethiopia, will be severely impacted by the 243 metre-high Gibe III dam, which is due to be completed this year, says the study, published by the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre. It suggests water levels could drop by half, devastating the lake’s fisheries and affecting the livelihoods of 170,000 agro-pastoralists.

“Ultimately, the 6,400 sq km lake could reduce to two small lakes. The picture that emerges from these predictions bears a striking resemblance to the recent disastrous history of the Aral Sea, which was once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body,” said Sean Avery, a Nairobi-based hydrologist who studied the impact of the dam project for the African Development Bank. Read more on theguardian…

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