Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - Page 11 News List

Africa’s highest dam opens flood of debate

A third dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia is expected to bring electricity and spur a capitalist mode of development in areas along the river, but at 243m tall, it is naturally bound to deliver a negative social impact on about half a million people, critics say

By Jenny Vaughan  /  AFP, GIBE III, ETHIOPIA

He urged the Ethiopian government to halt the dam’s construction “so investment could go towards infrastructure that could really benefit the people.”

Some nearby residents welcome the job opportunities that have accompanied the dam’s constructions. Over 4,000 Ethiopians have been hired to help build Gibe III, which was started in 2006 and is over 50 percent complete.

“It is good for our development and the area’s development [because] we get more employment,” said Mengistu Mara, 26, a student in Lala town about 30km away from Gibe III.

His brother who works as a crane operator at the dam pays Mengistu’s school fees at the local high school, built in 2009 by the dam’s contractors.

“I’m learning now because my brother is bringing me money,” he said, standing in front of the school built near the village’s newly paved road.

Lala resident Desalegn Barata, 41, also welcomed the job creation, but said that even with the construction site next door, his community still has no clinic.

“There is no clinic or hospital and there are many diseases here,” he said, swatting at the flies swarming around him in the midday heat.

For Turton, the government should prioritize social justice as the project moves ahead, saying it is possible to balance the benefits with the potential impact.

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