World Bank under fire for Kenya, Addis electricity line
Posted Thursday, July 12 2012 at 21:10
The World Bank has been urged to withhold support for a power line that would take electricity from Ethiopia to Kenya, citing environmental and human rights concerns.
An advocacy group urged newly installed bank president Jim Yong Kim to hold fire. “The World Bank needs to rigorously apply its social and environmental safeguards,” a letter to Kim stated.
“Human Rights Watch has very serious concerns that the World Bank has failed to do so as the project currently stands.”
The roughly 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) transmission line is part of a nearly $1.3 billion project to link energy-producing Ethiopia with Kenya — where as many as 80 per cent of the population is without power.
It is also part of a broader plan to link the electricity grids of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, spurring growth and saving East African nations around $1 billion a year in energy costs.
But the human rights watch said the project also includes pitfalls for the environment and local residents, some of whom will be displaced.
It said the dam that will be the likely source of the power in Ethiopia — which is not funded by the bank — could cause serious environmental damage to Lake Turkana, a Unesco world heritage site.
It said the dam project has also resulted in a swathe of “abusive involuntary resettlement” of local groups.
While the World Bank says that more than 5,000 people will be directly affected by the power project, it stresses the dam project is not directly linked and energy will come from a large number of existing and future power plants in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government is going to use power from Gibe III on the Omo River to supply electricity for 245,000 hectares of state-run irrigated sugar plantations and other projects.
The sugar plantations are already having serious consequences for the 200,000 residents of the Lower Omo including the loss of grazing land and cultivation sites, and forced resettlement into villages.
These residents, from eight groups, rely on the 760-kilometer-long Omo River for growing crops and replenishing grazing lands during annual flooding.