Kenyan Conservationists Try to Stop Power Purchase from Ethiopian Gibe Dam

Kenyan conservationists filed a court case against the government and Kenya Power and Lighting Ltd., arguing they’ve disregarded environmental and social concerns in deciding to buy hydroelectricity from Ethiopia.

The Gibe III hydropower dam, a 1.5 billion-euro ($1.86 billion) project on the Ethiopia’s Omo River, threatens livelihoods in the region, Ikal Angelei, co-founder of Friends of Lake Turkana, said in a phone interview from Dublin today. The group filed the suit on June 14 at the High Court in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. No court date has been set.

Residents and pastoral communities along the Omo River and Kenya’s Lake Turkana which it flows into may face water shortages, damaging fishing and farming, Angelei said.

“These communities are already in conflict due to a lack of natural resources,” Angelei said. “The suit against KPLC and the government is to try and stop their engagement until the proper studies have been done.”

Kenya plans to import as much as 600 megawatts of electricity from Ethiopia as it looks to boost energy supplies to help spur economic growth, Joseph Kinyua, permanent secretary in the Finance Ministry, said on Dec. 4.

Conservation groups including London-based Survival International and International Rivers, based in California, have called on the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, JP Morgan Chase and other financiers not to fund completion of the Gibe III project.

Italy’s Salini Costruttori SpA is working on the dam with financing from the Ethiopian government. If completed, the 243- meter-high dam will generate 1,870 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current power output, according to the Ethiopian Electric Power Corp.

Salini has said critics of the dam “are not in possession of adequate information or adequate competences” and that the project will contribute toward political stability in the region, the Rome-based company said in a March 30 statement on its website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net.

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