NGO response to Salini’s misinformation on the “STOP GIBE 3” campaign

Gibe

Gibe

Counter Balance, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale (CRBM), Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) and International Rivers launched a campaign last week to halt the Gibe 3 Dam in Ethiopia (www.stopgibe3.org ). The Gibe 3 project contractor, Salini Costruttori, reacted publishing misleading and highly debatable information in two related press releases dated March 26 and March 30.

Salini states: “We are dealing with an irresponsible campaign, based on critical statements founded on blatant factual errors and mainly due to elementary arithmetic and technical mistakes. These statements have already been assessed and denied by authoritative international organizations, such as EIB and the African Development Bank (ADB).”

Our response: FoLT, CRBM and International Rivers have filed two complaints with the African Development Bank’s investigative unit due to the poor analysis of project impacts. A mediation exercise triggered by the FoLT complaint is ongoing and the second complaint is expected to lead to a thorough investigation of the Bank’s project preparation, pending an eligibility review by the AfDB complaint mechanism.

In preparation for European Investment Bank involvement, the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund has allocated € 1.2 million [1] for two forthcoming studies: a comprehensive study on the dam’s impacts to Lake Turkana, as well as a cumulative impact assessment for the Omo River. The EIB has also commissioned a gap filling study of the ESIA carried out by the project promoter, the study is currently under preparation. These circumstances indicate that the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank are continuing to review raised concerns, making Salini’s statements questionable.

Salini states: As regards the administrative aspects, it should be recalled that all ongoing projects undertaken by Salini Costruttori in Ethiopia have received the approval required from the competent authorities, specifically the “Non Objection” of the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) and have been certified to be in full compliance with Ethiopian law.

Our response: Construction of Gibe 3 Dam began in 2006 without an approved Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, in violation of Ethiopian environmental policy. [2] According to the African Development Bank, the project received its environmental license in 2008, although the assessment was not completed until January 2009.

Salini received a no-bid contract for the Gibe 3 Dam, violating Ethiopia’s procurement regulations for public projects. [3] International funding would reward this closed-door contract process that can inflate prices, create poverty and enable corruption.

Salini states: One case is that of the change in water level in Lake Turkana caused by the project, which the critical organizations are claiming has fallen by 12 metres, with disastrous effects. In truth, the claimed fall in water level is non-existent and is based on a blatant overestimate (15 times!) in the calculation of the volume taken over by the dam.

Our response: According to a 2009 report  released by the African Resources Working Group (ARWG )- a group of international scholars and academics who have worked in Ethiopia – Lake Turkana could drop at least three to four meters due to reservoir filling, and up to 12 meters due to two additional factors: potentially extensive leakage from the reservoir due to high frequency of fissures in the basalts; and increased offtakes for large-scale irrigation. Evaporation from the reservoir would also reduce downstream water. These factors have not been sufficiently taken into account by project developers.

Lake Turkana is a chronically food insecure area. Many pastoralists have turned to fishing in the face of persistent droughts. The dam is expected to speed up the falling lake levels and increasing salinity, which in turn would reduce fish stocks. There are ongoing reports of inter-tribal conflicts related to theft of livestock and fishing equipment. Conflicts are expected to worsen as resources reduce further.

Salini states: As some of the people in the area practice flood-retreat agriculture, despite the very low levels of productivity, the dam will have discharges such as to enable the controlled reproduction of floods when necessary and reproduce the effects of natural floods, limiting water flow to that necessary for agricultural purposes, avoiding the past destructive effects of overflows. This will enable the local people to have a transitory period of a suitable duration when it is deemed opportune to switch from flood-retreat agriculture to more modern forms of agriculture.

Our response: Downstream tribal communities in Ethiopia have been systematically disempowered and project developers have not demonstrated political will in keeping these communities from harm. In 2009, the government of Ethiopia shut down dozens of the affected area’s local community associations. The government is advertising large concessions on indigenous lands for agribusiness plantations. Tribes have not been sufficiently informed or consulted regarding the dam or land takings. Project developers also intend to use food aid – normally a response to humanitarian crises – as mitigation during reservoir filling. The 10-day artificial flood is expected to be insufficient to sustain food production. Given the lack of political will, quality equipment for small-scale irrigation is unlikely to be supplied to affected communities.

Salini states: The basin produced by the dam is of approximately 14 billion cubic metres, and not 216 billion cubic metres, as incorrectly calculated and announced dramatically and alarmingly.

Our response: The “Stop Gibe 3” campaign has consistently referred to the reservoir’s “live storage” volume of approximately 11 billion m3. We have not stated that the reservoir volume is 216 billion m3 in any campaign publications or articles.[5]

Salini states: “Those who are opposing the Gibe project in various ways and under various guises are merely fuelling a needless and damaging campaign, based on ideological prejudice – in the hope of gaining fame and notoriety – while nullifying the appreciation of the work expressed in international circles”.

Our response: Since ten years, International Rivers and CRBM have called on governments, funders and dams developers to implement the World Commission on Dams [6]  recommendations which could turn hydroelectric projects into beneficial development for local communities. The delay in the commissioning of Gilgel Gibe II project and the recent collapse of the tunnel [7] raises technical and economical concerns about poor project planning.

Notes for editors:

1. http://www.eu-africa-infrastructure-tf.net/activities/grants/gibe-iii-hydroower-project.htm

2. Proclamation n. 299/2002. Environmental Impact Assessment Proclamation. General Provisions, article 1, “Without Authorization from the Authority (Environmental Protection Authority) or from the relevant regional environmental agency, no person shall commence implementation of any project that requires environmental impact assessment as determined in a directive issued pursuant to Article 5 of this proclamation”.

3. Federal Public Procurement Directive (Ministry of Finance & Economic Development –  July, 2005)
http://www.stopgibe3.org/pdf/Africa%20Resources%20Working%20Group%20%28ARWG%29.pdf

4. http://www.stopgibe3.org/pdf/Ethiopias%20Gibe%203%20Dam%20-%20Sowing%20Hunger%20and%20Conflict.pdf (see page 2 Gibe 3 Dam Fast Facts)

5. http://www.unep.org/DAMS/WCD/

6. http://www.counterbalance-eib.org/component/option,com_datsogallery/Itemid,98/func,detail/id,132/
http://www.salini.it/index.php/english/content/show_news/22

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