Kenya has dismissed calls for the cancellation of a multi-million dollar power purchase agreement with Ethiopia inprotest of a massive hydropower project that water scientists say will alter the lives of residents of Turkana region in Kenya.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga said despite ongoing efforts to expand electricity generation through investments in green energy initiatives, the demand for electric power in the East African nation would continue to grow, which justifies the need to import power from neighboring Ethiopia to meet the shortfalls."We will lower the cost of energy through the importation of power from Ethiopia," Odinga said late on Wednesday.
Environmentalists say the 1.7 billion U.S. dollar hydropower project would alter the lives of half a million residents of Lake Turkana and other regions neighboring Sothern Ethiopia. There are fears that the Omo River, which supplies water to the Gibe III Dam under construction, would affect water levels on Lake Victoria if its course is altered as proposed in the design of the power plant.
Kenyan parliamentarian, Ekwe Ethuro, who represents Turkana, said his constituents were deeply concerned that the environmental impact of the project could far outweigh the benefits. "Any project that alters the flow and course of the Omo River will have effects," Ethuro said.Odinga said Nairobi was aware of the environmental impacts the Dam project would have on the residents of Turkana, but insisted the analysis by Kenyan scientists working on the project showed it would be temporary. "Omo River is the biggest river flowing into Turkana.
Our concern it (project) will undermine the flow of the river. Our scientists are working on it. It is true there will be a disruption but this is temporary. The bulk of the water will flow into the irrigation project," Odinga said, to much parliamentary opposition.
Odinga said although there were possible environmental impacts, Kenya was in no position to stop Ethiopia from using the waters of Omo River as a resource. "We have engaged Ethiopia constructively. Ethiopia will sell electricity to us and we are financing this project because it will lower the cost of energy," Odinga asserted.The two governments formed a joint council to deal with matters arising as a result of the use of the Omo River waters, amid complaints from international non governmental organizations. Kenya aims to raise its annual electricity output to 15,000 megawatts while Ethiopia's target is to raise electric power production to 37,000 MW and become the region's biggest exporter of power.
The two countries signed a power purchase agreement in 2011 and agreed on the terms of constructing a regional power inter- connector to link their grids and implement the regional trade in electricity.