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New report on the future of Lake Turkana

A new report on the impact of the Gibe III dam and associated irrigation development on the hydrology of Lake Turkana is now available.
New report on the future of Lake Turkana

South Island shoreline, Lake Turkana (Sean Avery)

The landscape of the lower Omo  is undergoing one of the biggest transformations in its history, thanks to the Gibe III hydropower dam which is under construction in the middle basin of the Omo, about 600 kilometres upstream from Lake Turkana. Gibe III will regulate the flow of the Omo, permanently modify the annual flood regime upon which the agro-pastoralists of the lower Omo depend for their livelihoods and make possible reliable large-scale irrigation development in the lower basin.

Since the Omo supplies 90 per cent of the water entering Lake Turkana, the regulation of the Omo flows and the abstraction of Omo water for large-scale irrigation will alter the hydrological inflow patterns to Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. The consequences of large irrigation abstractions were not mentioned in any of the environmental impact assessments commissioned by the Gibe III dam builders. In a report submitted to the African Development Bank in 2010, however, Dr Sean Avery, a Nairobi-based consultant hydrologist and civil engineer,  estimated that the level of the lake could drop by up to 20 meters, causing a significant reduction in the productivity of its fisheries.

A few months after this report was submitted, the full extent of planned irrigation development in the lower Omo became clear, with the announcement that the state-run Ethiopian Sugar Corporation would soon begin developing 150,000 hectares of irrigated sugar plantations. This was in addition to land which had already been allocated to, or earmarked for development by, private investors. It appeared that the lower Omo was set to become by far the largest irrigation complex in Ethiopia. The African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford therefore asked Dr Avery to undertake a second study to update and consolidate his earlier findings. His final report is now available. It provides the most up to date, detailed and authoritative assessment yet made of the likely impact of river basin development in the Omo Valley on the Lake Turkana Basin.

Click here to download the report.

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