The damming of a river that feeds the world’s largest desert lake could lead not only to less drinking water sources for thousands of Kenyans, but international conflict between tribes for what little water remains.
A new film and report by International Rivers, Come and Count Our Bones, shares the perspectives of 100 people living in Kenya’s Turkana and Marsabit Counties who fear the repercussions of the Gibe III Dam, currently under construction in Ethiopia.
Lake Turkana, a world heritage site, is fed almost exclusively by Ethiopia’s Omo River. After nearly nine years of construction, the Gibe III Dam is expected to start producing hydropower on the river by the middle of this year. Once in effect, the dam and associated agricultural projects may decrease the depth of the lake by as much as 20 meters (its average depth is approximately 30 meters), according to the report, removing a critical source of livelihood for many people living along its banks.
“There will be no fish, no farming, and low humidity,” says one community member. “The community will be finished.”
The lake is an integral resource for many of its residents, not just fishing communities. Pastoral communities rely on it for grass and some even use it as a water source despite its high salinity.
“When the lake’s waters recede, grass grows on the fertile land along the shores which feeds our animals,” Esther Epoet tells International Rivers. “And when there is drought, people go to the lake to fish for survival. If the lake disappears, people will really suffer.”
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