UNESCO pushes to lessen Ethiopia’s scanty power supply by around 2000MW!

August 22nd, 2011 | by addis portal |

By Kelebet Adam

The discourse over trading off environment for the sake of developing human society has become very insensitively and irrationally sensitive subject for people who thinks that they are they only one who cares about mother earth. The three views over nature as to human development efforts are presented below and find yourself which group you would fall in at the end. If you are a politician, there is little room to be bipartisan here and you have to pick one of the three schools of thoughts about nature. 

Developmentalist view nature nothing but as one good. They argue that it is out there to be developed and used by human society. They put the human society at the peak of the pyramid. Human-being is a master of this world and hence he has to be free to use nature as he wishes. They see nature as more robust and intact and even inert system that it has already been equipped with self adjusting system. If something goes wrong with nature, it has its own checks and balances and hence no worry as it will take of itself. They argue that human beings interference with nature is trivial as nature is monstrous in size and very complex in its process system to be disordered by humans. They utterly defy the idea that nature is frail and would easily get ruined by human beings. Whereas, environmentalist view nature differently; and accuse the Developmentalist for having very anthropogenic (human-centred) and obstinate view for nature.

The environmentalists try to cool down the hot debate over nature vs development by putting themselves somewhere in between developmentalist and conservationist. They say nature is there to be used by all living things – both the fauna and the flora – equally and responsibly. And human being is the integral but also just one part of the whole nature system and hence shouldn’t be put on the peak of the pyramid but as part within the intricate web of interaction of all parties of this world. All living citizens of this world have a right to exist and human being is just one of them. No more no less. The idea of sustainable usage of all natural resources has a room this school of thought. Use it but responsibly. Make sure the benefits that human beings and other livings things are enjoying today is there fully for the next generation too so they would enjoy what we all have enjoyed this day.

On the other hand, the conservationists take nature just like their religion. For them, nature is untouchable. It should be left the way it has been whatsoever. It shouldn’t be interfered specially by the all-destroying and dictator creature of this world called a human-being. They see humans as number one threat to the nature system. They argue that nature is there only to be conserved. They allegedly argue that human beings have to live like their first dad and mom – Adem and Hawa – eating only berries and fruits from virgin forests; or if humans are tired of eating berries and fruits and wants to change their menu for a while, they can go and eat roots and tree barks with out interfering the frail mother nature so much. 

The balance between developmentalist, environmentalist and conservationist has been swaying from one side to the other over period of time. History has been a paramount witness for that balance shift happening over the course of time.

The built environment that we have now today in excess in Europe and North America is hallmark that the developmentalists have been winning the nature vs development debate against the environmentalists and conservationists. Developmentalist were unchallenged and prominent when they were building Europe, North America and Russia while the Environmentalists and Conservationist were in obscurity and force-less to making their case against Developmentalist.

The populous wouldn’t have an ear for Environmentalists and Conservationists view of nature if they were to make their case against development if they were there to begin with, because, the people quest were very basic that they couldn’t get it from the raw nature system. The populous doesn’t want to go starve and hence they stood and toiled big time along with developmentalist when for instance the green revolution over Europe’s agriculture had been unfolding. Mother Nature was experiencing all different kinds of ills from European agricultural revolution when it was in the making.
Ground and Surface waters including lakes and rivers were very much polluted with pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. Mass fish kill in the lakes, rives and estuaries were not uncommon. Other aquatic and terrestrial animals and plants had been harmed from the negative consequences of the green revolution.

I presume, in this period of time, it would be considered bizarre if one stands up and promotes conservationist and even more moderate view of nature, which is the environmentalist view to the scale we now see this time around on Africa’s development efforts. Today’s Africa is way backward in terms of its development compared with then Europe and North America when the green revolution and all that harm on natural systems were foot- marked by humans. 

This very same world today has long been witnessing large scale deforestation. This very same world we live in today has experienced and is still facing air pollution from industrial air pollutants. Toxic air pollutants plumed unregulated from big chimneys of Europe’s giant industries to the air until human beings breathe soot in and out and suffer from respiratory illnesses. Europe’s acid rain phenomenon alone is a recent past experience of this very same world we live in today. The London photochemical smog formation incident is still in humans’ fresh memory. 

However, with all the mishaps humans had caused and have continue to cause on mother nature, the very same humans slept on their eyes and ears because they were convinced that bread is to be ensured first – because they knew that development will bring answers to most challenges of humans in this world as they live up in nature. Humans knew that they have to make medicines to treat diseases, and to do that they had to build pharmaceutical industries to produce meds in bulk. However that kind of very much needed development would come with zero environmental cost. Humans have been trying their level best to mitigate the environmental damages that they would cause on nature as they are chasing their development agenda as much as they humanly can. 

UNESCO has recently asked the Ethiopian government to bring the Gilgel gibe III hydropower project into a complete halt. It is arguing that the Gilgel Gibe III hydropower dam project would endanger one the Africa’s world heritage sites – Lake Turkana ecosystem. UNESCO wants to lay off the 4000 hard working Ethiopian and expat men and women working with this specific project and make them jobless in one day based on baseless and unfounded allegation and unscientific and illogical argument. 

As an environmental expert, I am not convinced with the argument that this specific project would harm the Lake Turkana ecosystem. It should rather be argued for the flip side of it. The Lake Turkana and the whole downstream communities would be benefited by this project as the omo river water flow specially during the wet season would be regulated and so they don’t get hit by the flooding. The project would bring solution for the ever present environmental challenges of omo riverine and Lake Turkana communities. As the flow of Omo water would be regulated after this project is finished, the downstream communities would hardly face flooding so they wouldn’t be displaced from their lands, houses at times of flooding in the wet season of the year.

Lake Turkana would also be benefited when the flooding that was bringing in the nutrients from the high lands of Ethiopia to enriching the lake’s nutrient profile and encourages toxic alagal bloom growth, which would a danger to the fish communities, etc, and form siltation and hence decreasing its effective depth and fastens the natural aging of the lake. With Gilgel Gibe III hydropower project, I see Lake Turkana’s natural age would be extended not be shortened as the water that would get into the lake would have less euthrophiying nutrients and silts.

‘’Heavy rainfall causes the Omo River to flood (June through September), bringing nutrient rich waters into Lake Turkana (Beadle 1981). In the far north of the ecoregion, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the mean annual precipitation is 1,302 mm/year (Hughes & Hughes 1992).’’

‘’Lake Turkana is 260 km long, with an average width of 30 km, a mean depth of 31 m, and a maximum depth of 114 m. It has an area of approximately 7,560 km² and a volume of 237 km³ (Coulter et al. 1986).’’

‘’Lake Turkana is the largest lake in the eastern portion of the Rift Valley and the fourth largest lake by volume in Africa(Beadle 1981). Lying in a low closed basin at approximately 365 m asl, the lake is situated primarily in northwestern Kenya, with only its northern most end, the Omo Delta, inside Ethiopia. Of the twelve principal rivers that feed Lake Turkana, the River Omo is its only perennial tributary, supplying over 90% of the lake’s inflow (Beadle 1981). ‘’

To make a case to the world that one of the fourth largest lakes of Africa with 260km length and with a surface area covering close to 7, 560km2 is being threatened by these small nothing but hydropower projects that the poor Ethiopia is trying accomplish is unconvincing to say the least. This view that Nature is very frail and will die with even little human interference is purely conservationist view as presented above, and has no place in today’s Africa.

Africa needs development badly. Ethiopia is one of very poorest countries of Africa and of the world. Ethiopians mothers die from birth complications and related medical conditions, children die in Africa in thousands because of lack of basic access to heath care services. Millions have to be put on emergency food aid every year. There are none or little infrastructures such as roads, telecommunication, clean and wholesome water supply and sanitation facilities in the continent. And so on.

For Africa to change itself within short period of time, it has to develop all sectors most importantly its agriculture and then manufacturing. To do all that Energy is the single most essential input. With out Energy there is no way Africa would develop. The most environmental friendly way of generating energy (electric) has been hydropower in the case of Africa and hence it has to continue exhaustively and also responsibly invest on that sector.

I hope the UNESCO and others who are intentionally or inadvertently working against Africa’s development interest by putting this utopia kind of conservationist view of nature would come to understand the everyday challenges of Africans and to be specific the Ethiopians.

Kelebet Adam

The writer can be reached at z3rdeyegroup@yahoo.com

Be Sociable, Share!

You must be logged in to post a comment.