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Forced Displacement Causes Controversy in Ethiopia's Omo Valley

July 19, 2019

By Salem Solomon

A dam project and sugarcane plantation intended to transform southern Ethiopia could mean the end to a way of life for indigenous people living in the region.

The $1.7 billion hydroelectric Gibe III dam, completed in 2015, harnesses power from the Omo River. It can generate up to 1,870 megawatts of energy, equal to 40 percent of Ethiopia's total electricity demand.

And although the project has been a major source of pride for Ethiopians, the impact on people living in the region has been intensely debated.

The dam has ended the seasonal flooding that farmers and pastoralists relied on for their livelihood, according to a new report by the Oakland Institute, a California-based research institution.

The project has also failed to deliver employment for local people, and forced resettlement has led to food insecurity, the report outlined.

"The cost has been paid in huge proportions by these communities who have been forcibly displaced," Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, told VOA. "They have seen widespread human rights abuses, and now they see that it was nothing else but failed promises."

"Gibe Omo is an important resource corridor for the poor country of Ethiopia to build its economy," he told VOA. "And it transforms lives of the entire population of Ethiopia as well as, especially, of the people inhabiting the valley."