23 July 2003

Ethiopia: African Development Fund Supports Study On Harnessing Awash River

Addis Ababa — Ethiopia is launching a major study on harnessing the potential of the Awash river basin - which is home to more than 10 million people. The country was granted US $2.6 million by the African Development Fund (ADF) on Tuesday to help it tackle the problems of annual flooding and water management in the area.

The funding came as the Awash river - the longest in the country at 1,200 kilometres - burst its banks, causing severe flooding and leaving around 3,000 people homeless.

Such floods - which usually happen between June and August - cause immeasurable damage to agricultural land and infrastructure as well as leaving hundreds homeless. The government estimates that damage of around US $75,000 is caused to farmland each year before the river eventually flows into salt lakes near the Djibouti border. In 1999, the flooding was so severe that the military was called in to help, using helicopters to rescue survivors and help relocate them.

Under the study the government aims to draw up schemes for flood control to protect property in the fertile region, and develop an early warning system. The regional government is also looking at using the area as a resettlement site for nomadic Afar pastoralists who inhabit the region.

The ADF said in a statement from Tunis that harnessing the 111,000 square-kilometre river basin could "enhance food security, employment, and reduce poverty". It added: "The demand for natural resources by the fast growing population remains a major challenge to effective agricultural and forestland management.

"The high pressure on forest resources in particular, has led to the exploitation of fragile watersheds and ecosystems that has resulted in massive loss of plant and animal biodiversity."

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