Ethiopia's plantations are killing vital waterway
The flooding of the Omo River feeds the rich biodiversity of the region and ensures tribes such as the Bodi, Mursi and Dassanach can feed their cattle and produce beans and cereals in the fertile silt left behind. In addition to this indigenous communities are also suffering from violent human rights abuses, as plans are implemented forcibly to resettle those who stand in the way of the government's plans, and to take away their cattle.
The Omo River downstream from the notorious Gibe III dam is being diverted into a newly-dug irrigation canal, one of several which will feed a massively ambitious plantations scheme for state and private investors. These manmade canals are key to Ethiopia's plantations plan, which is already having a hugely negative impact on UNESCO's Lower Omo World Heritage site. The government has revealed virtually nothing about the plantations program, but an official map obtained by Survival shows the enormous scope of the project. There was a flood last year, but most Bodi and Mursi were not able to use it for cultivation because of the irrigation project. One local person, speaking to a Survival researcher who recently visited the area, said, 'I've never seen the river this low. During the dry season, like it is now, you can usually cross by foot, and water reaches your knees. Now I could cross without my feet getting wet.'