EEPCo Gibe III HydroElectric Project
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1.          Introduction

Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO) is currently focusing on developing the country's hydroelectric potential and the Gibe III scheme provides a generating capacity to meet domestic demands and increase exports of electricity. The direct benefits of this project will be 1,870 MW of electrical power and 6,400 GWh of firm energy per year.

The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) has been prepared in compliance with Ethiopian ESIA procedures and in accordance with the international standards as reflected in the policies, safeguard procedures, and guidelines of the African Development Bank and the World Bank. CESI and AGRICONSULTING of Italy, in association with MDI Consulting Engineers of Ethiopia, was charged with the responsibility of preparing the ESIA. EEPCO's environmental monitoring unit (EMU) has also prepared the ESIA and the RAP for the transmission line project.

2.            Policy, Legal, and Administrative Frameworks

The ESIA study for the Gibe III hydroelectric project has been carried out within the framework of local, national and international environmental regulations. The legislative framework applicable to the project is governed by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), Africa Development Bank (AfDB), World Bank, and European Investment Bank (EIB).

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has ratified several international conventions and protocols, and some of these have relevance to Gibe III Hydroelectric Project.

 3.          Description of the Project Environment

Information on the existing natural and socio-economic resources is of fundamental importance for evaluation of environmental impacts. The baseline data on the current status of the physical, biological and socio-cultural environments of the project area have been assembled, evaluated and presented.

3.1.          Dam and Reservoir/upstream

3.1.1.       Physical Environment

The physical environment like Climate, Geology, Seismology, Hydrogeology, Hydrology and  Water quality was studied for environmental and social environmental impact assessment of the project.

3.1.2.      Biological Environment

Land Use and Land Cover

Land cover assessment was carried out for the Gibe III reservoir area. The classification resulted into the following four classes: The riparian vegetation in the reservoir area was observed along the river sides and it occupied 1,839 ha of land (8.8 percent ), and deciduous woodland covers about 17,158 ha (82.2 percent) and it is characterized by approximately 2 percent tree cover and 98 percent grass at the time when the field survey was carried out. The exposed surface and silt/gravel land covers 4.7 percent of the reservoir area and it mainly occurs along the lower parts of the river, on steep sides of rivers and degraded hillsides and rock outcrops. River/ water body covers 4.3 percent of the reservoir area. Farming practices and settlement are concentrated in areas (outside the valley on the highland) which are not affected by the future reservoir.

Natural Vegetation and Forest Resources: The vegetation on the hill slopes of the valley is characterized by deciduous phenology of the woodland species which shed their leaves during the dry season and regain during the wet season as an adaptive mechanism for the prolonged dry season. In general, the vegetation which has evolved (around the reservoir area) is poor in species composition due to the frequent fires. There is a narrow band of riparian vegetation of almost similar species composition as the woodland on the hill slopes. Due to ample moisture, trees found at the edge of the riverbank are not affected by fire as the rest of trees in the upper parts of the study area.

Wildlife Resources: Based on the assessment, the number of wildlife species in the project area is low and does not rate well with areas in downstream of Gibe III dam (the Mago and Omo National Parks) and harbours only limited number of wildlife. However, the local residents and professionals from the offices of Agriculture interviewed during the field studies reported the presence of wildlife within the project area.

The wildlife that have been recorded for the reservoir area are very common in many parts of the country and none of these species are endangered or threatened. The vegetations provide good habitat to support diverse wildlife species. However, the wildlife habitats have always been under threat due to wildfires that are practiced during the dry season and it is greatly affecting the overall ecology and resource base. The woodlands, in particular are under high threat from fire.

Fishery Resources: The Omo-Gibe river basin is known to contain high diversity of fish species with over 70 species listed. The fishery in the study area includes: the riverine fishery along the mainstream Omo River, flood plain fishery (and Dipa Hayk), and the lacustrine fishery at Lake Turkana (Bubua and Toltale).

There are few species which are endemic to the Lake Turkana and lower delta of the Omo River. However, none of the reports referred in the studies indicate the occurrence of endangered or threatened fish species in the Omo-Turkana system. The endemic fish species breed in different locations in or close to the lake - like in the estuarine, littoral and pelagic habitats of the lake. These fish species have apparently evolved in the lake from the riverine ancestors to fill up the niche created in the lacustrine system.

Riverine fishery is not developed partly due to lack of access to suitable fishing grounds and also the food habit or culture of most of the rural community does not favour fish consumption. Fishing is done mainly with hooks and some gill net. Commercial fishing is mainly reported in the lower course of the river far below the proposed dam site, at Omorate and at the Lake Turkana.

Protected Areas: Ethiopia issued a number of regulations aimed to conserve and protect the remaining natural ecosystems of the country in National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, National Priority Forest Areas and Controlled Hunting Areas. However, the reservoir area is neither contiguous with nor in close proximity with any of these nationally protected areas.

3.1.3         Socio-Economic Environment

The socio-economic assessment has been carried out with the objective to provide a comprehensive analysis of the existing socio-economic conditions of the population in the future reservoir area.

Population and Settlement: In 2006, an estimated 253,412 people were living in the 67 Peasant Associations located around the Gibe III reservoir area. The average population density within the Peasant Associations located around the reservoir area is 127.8 persons per km2. More than 13 different ethnic groups live around the future reservoir area and the major ethnic groups are - Hadiya (25.3 percent ), Wolayita (23 percent ), Oromo (20.4 percent ), Dawro (6.9 percent ), Kembata (6.7 percent ), Tembaro (5 percent ), and less than one percent of Amhara, Keffa and Sodo Gurage, Silte and Sebatbet gurage. The rest of the ethnic groups constitute less than 3.3 in total.

Agriculture and livestock populations: The main areas of farming are confined to the middle or upper slopes of the hills where the settlements are situated. The farmers in the project area (mainly on the high land) produce small quantities of a wide range of crops (15-20 different crops), including cereals, roots, tubers, pulses, spices, coffee and fruits. The main livestock populations in the project area are cattle, sheep, goats, poultry and equines. Few farmers own oxen, although this varies throughout the project area.

Public Health: The major health problems of the project area are reported to be infectious diseases and malnutrition. Waterborne and vector borne diseases are also prevalent in the area. The project areas are highly endemic for malaria with continuous transmission and it is by far the most important of the diseases. The presence of several rivers (tributaries to Omo River) provides ideal breeding habitats for mosquitoes.

Cultural, Religious, Historical and Archaeological Sites: The UNESCO designated heritage site is not in close proximity to the proposed Gibe III dam and reservoir areas. The lower valley of the Omo River which is designated as a UNESCO heritage site is located far downstream and will not be affected by this scheme. No visible archaeological remains, which have scientific, cultural, public, economic, ethnic and historic significances, have been observed in the area and dam sites. The sites have no archaeological importance. However, a Chance Find Protocol has been prepared to cover any unexpected finding.

3.2. Baseline Information: Downstream Area

Population and Settlement: The Lower Omo stretches over Salamago, Hamer, Nyangatom and Dasenech weredas and is well endowed with both cultural diversity and natural resources. The population within these four weredas of the lower Omo is estimated to be about 131,831 in the year 2007. There are 28,713 households with an average of 4.6 people per household.

Agriculture: There are different farming systems in the Lower Omo influenced by agro-climatic and socio-economic constraints. These include cereal-based mixed farming system and retreat flood cultivation.

The Wereda officials reported that for most people, the grains produced from recession cultivation were only sufficient for 3-6 months. Thereafter, they depend on food aid from the government and NGOs.

Livestock and Grazing Resources: The livestock population of the study area is estimated to be 1.2 million, poultry 71,880 and 132,500 bee colonies. Livestock provide the pastoralists of the Southern Omo Lowlands a number of benefits like milk, meat and live animals. An important feature in all the four Weredas is that feed is also obtained because of the recession of the flood from the Omo River.

The Lower Omo River Basin is underdeveloped and remote. Access and other infrastructure (road, market, etc) are very poor. The types of livestock markets in the area are mainly bush markets, in some Weredas primary type of markets exist.

National Parks and other Protected Areas: The Omo, Mago, Mazie and Chabara Chorchora National Parks and Murele Controlled Hunting Area are found at the downstream of the Gibe III scheme. According to the information obtained from Park Wardens, reduction in the flood flow of the Omo downstream will have no effect on the wild animals in the Parks.

Tourism: Tourism in the South Omo Zone is limited and based in small groups interested essentially in natural resources (parks, natural reserves, animals, the Omo River) and ethnic attractions. Particularly, Mago and Omo National Parks are the main tourist destinations.

3.3. Baseline Information: Gibe III-Sodo Transmission Line

Natural Environment: The transmission corridor is neither contiguous with, nor in close proximity with any of the nationally protected areas like national parks, wildlife reserves or controlled hunting areas.

Settlement pattern and housing: Settlement along the proposed Transmission Line (TL) is predominantly rural organized into small villages. The villages are clustered on hilltops and valley slopes. The people along the TL have traditional tukuls as dwelling units and all dwelling units are one-room structures. The tukuls are built from local materials with wood plastered with mud and have thatched roofs build mostly out of grass.

Agriculture: The population and economy of the region traversed by the transmission line project is almost totally dependent upon agriculture and livestock. The major crops cultivated in the area include, teff, wheat, barley and ginger. The major perennial crops produced in the three project affected weredas are coffee, enset, mango, avocado, gishta, koke and banana. Coffee, enset and banana are the dominant source of cash income contributors.

Historical or archaeological significance: Enquiries to residents along the transmission line route have indicated that there are no known sites of historical or archaeological significance in the vicinity of the route.

 4.         Potential Impacts and Benefit Enhancement and Mitigation Measures

4.1.         Beneficial/ Positive Impacts

Key potentially beneficial impacts associated with the implementation of the Gibe III Project are power generation (The Gibe III scheme is designed to supply 1,870 MW of electrical power), rural Electrification, fishery development (The project will create a reservoir of 20,000 ha in area and 243 meter deep at the dam site),  Prospects to Export Power ( The project will increase the generation capacity of the country and will make the power export programme of the country viable) , Avoidance of CO2 Emission (the use of hydropower also leads to a reduction of thermal plant emission (about 4.5 million t/y of CO2 emission), regulation of the river flow for Irrigation, flood protection to the downstream community, increase tourism activities since, The reservoir offers potential for eco-tourism, environmental education, etc. for bird watching and sport fishing, create job opportunity for around 5,000 persons  during construction and etc.

4.2.         Adverse Impacts and Mitigation Measures: Dam and Reservoir

On the basis of the findings of this ESIA the key environmental impacts during the construction and operation and maintenance phases of the project have been identified. The potential negative impacts of the proposed Gibe III Hydropower Project on the physical, biological and socio-economic environment have been identified and benefit enhancement and mitigation measures that should be adopted to avoid or minimise potential adverse impacts are recommended. Of which, some involve good engineering practices while others viewed from socio-economic as well as humanitarian angle. There are no confirmed occurrences of geothermal activity in dam area and because of its distance from the major Ethiopia seismic centres, located in the rift valley; any tectonical event will have negligible effects on the project area.

Impacts on Protected Areas: No adverse direct or indirect impacts are anticipated in respect of sensitive habitat, National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, or National Forest Priority Areas.

Impacts on Natural Vegetation: The loss of woodland grassland on the hillslopes of the valley and narrow riparian vegetation along the river and streams would not bring about marked differences in the carrying capacity. However, to compensate this loss an estimated 60,000 ha of land around the reservoir will be developed as buffer area and it is expected to support the bio-diversity conservation by enhancing the biological value of the area.

Impacts on Wildlife Resources: The area harbours only limited number of wildlife species and does not rate well with areas in Lower Omo. Therefore, there will only be a minimum opportunity cost loss suffered by the dam construction and creation of reservoir.

Impacts on Farmland and other privately owned assets: The project will affect a total of 355 households, about 188.94 hectares of privately owned land of which 138.7 ha is farmland, (excluding the TL) 47 residential housing units, and 71,852 perennial crops and other trees. Although the Gibe III project is one of the largest hydropower projects ever undertaken in the country, the impact from the reservoir in terms of population displacement is very small.


Impacts on Tribal People: There are no tribal people or ethnic minorities around the Gibe III dam and reservoir area. Therefore, no indigenous people development plan will be required.

Impacts of Public Health: impacts from various disease vectors species are, at this point, not considered to be a major factor affecting the implementation of the project. However, to reduce the risk of contracting malaria and to contain malaria cases, it is recommended to implement measures to manage malaria and control vectors.

The other serious issue that should be given due attention is the spread of sexually transmitted diseases especially HIV/AIDS due to the influx of labour force during the construction period. At the construction site, a quality health services will be provided to the construction employee's by establishing appropriate health facility. Awareness campaign on sexually transmitted diseases (STD/HIV/AIDS) and their prevention methods will be organized for the construction workers and local communities.

Impacts on Social Service Facilities and Infrastructure: The long stretch of Gibe III reservoir formation on the Gibe, Gojeb and Omo Rivers, will impact upon some social service facilities and infrastructures. These include submergence of Chida-Soda road section and the Bridge on the Omo River and several river crossings. It is planned to realign the road section downstream of the proposed dam site. It is also recommended to establish a boat service at the affected nine locations to provide service to transport people and their goods and livestock.

Impacts on Historic Sites: The historical sites known as King Ijajo Kella Walls will be partially affected by the reservoir. The sections that will be flooded are less than 2% of the total lengths and those sections are not unique in type and location and therefore, this impact is considered to be minor. As a compensation measures, EEPCO has financially assisted ARCCH to properly study, document and register these sites as parts of Ethiopian heritage and to promote and publicize this historic sites for both local and international tourists. The project will also finance for the construction of access road to the nearest representative sites and with associated tourist services. Although the UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Lower Omo Valley downstream of the Gibe II dam and reservoir site, it will not be affected by the construction and operation of the Gibe III scheme.

4.3.              Impacts on Downstream Environment Lower Omo and Mitigation Measures

Impacts on Recession Agriculture and Grazing Resources: The controlled floods will allow maintaining the required environmental flows also during the drought years. The regulating capacity of the reservoir will also allow controlling the natural floods peak discharges with short durations.

Controlled Environmental Floods: The reservoir operation will regulate the flows in the Omo River downstream of the plant. In broad terms there will be an increase in the flows during the dry season and a reduction of the flows during the rainy season, when the water is retained to fill the reservoir, with a substantial decrease of peak flood flows. Further downstream, as unregulated flow enter the river system from tributaries, the effect of the regulation decreases. The Gibe III hydropower plant is designed to allow the optimization of the reservoir operation and energy production during the operational life basing on the requirements both of the energy market and of the downstream environment.

Daily Flow Variation Acoustic Warning System: the first section of the river downstream Gibe III dam will experience consistent fluctuation of water levels within the riverbed in the course of normal (24 hrs) hydroelectric operations. To this aim, a long-term warning system constituted by sirens will be placed and operated in river sections located in the immediate proximity of nearest villages and around major river crossing to signal in advance occurrence of rising waters in a number of priority spots (provisionally estimated in 50-100 locations) along the Omo river first 200 km downstream Gibe III Dam.

Riparian Release/Environmental Flow: A minimum flow would be maintained naturally to meet the ecological requirements of the Omo downstream. From the ecological point of view, the minimum flow in the normal dry season is the most relevant having little contribution from the tributaries downstream. The recorded natural minimum mean monthly flows is in the month of March (about 25 m3/s) and as a priority this value has been recommended as absolute minimum monthly average compensation flow which must be sustained the under whole operation of the scheme. This flow preserves the natural regime during the dry season. However, with plant operation because the flow will be regulated there will be the added environmental benefit of reducing the incidence of extreme low monthly average flows which have been experienced in the past.

Impacts on Fishery Resources: Concerning impacts on aquatic environment, the creation of additional water bodies would have a positive effect by significantly increasing a fishery potential in the area. A number of commercially important species are known to migrate from Lake Turkana into the Omo River for spawning. However, none of these migrants reach the middle or upper reaches of the system. Therefore, construction of the proposed Gibe III dam will not affect the populations of migrant fishes because their spawning sites are far downstream of the dam site. There are no fish species listed as threatened or endangered in any of the study reports of the River Omo basin fish fauna study that could be affected by the dam. Therefore, it is planned to seasonally release more water to create flooding on the land bordering the Omo River. However, detailed monitoring is envisaged to determine the discharge mechanism and operational program (timing and volume of water discharge) and to ascertain how essential these floods are for the breeding success of fish species with commercial importance.

4.4.        Adverse Impacts and Mitigation Measures: Gibe III-Sodo Transmission Line

No adverse direct or indirect impacts are anticipated in respect to protected areas (i.e. national parks, controlled hunting areas, protected forest areas, etc.), sensitive habitat, wildlife or cultural heritage sites and no new access will be created to previously undeveloped areas.

The transmission line project will affect a total of 192 households, about 129 hectares of privately owned farmald, 192 residential housing units, and 26,892 perennial crops and other trees. Therefore, it is recommended to payment full and fair cash compensation.

4.5.          Adverse Impacts and Mitigation Measures: Chida- Sodo Road Realignment

The principal potentially adverse impact is the land and property expropriation associated with this realignment. However, no adverse direct or indirect impacts are anticipated in respect to protect areas (i.e. national parks, controlled hunting areas, protected forest areas, etc.), sensitive habitat  and wildlife or cultural heritage sites. In relation to engineering design, due consideration has been given during the detailed design stage to reduce the need for land and property expropriation without significantly compromising the functionality of the road.

Based on the assessment , the Chida-Sodo road realignment project will affect a total of 250 households, about 54.18 ha of farmland, 18 residential housing units, and 13,581 perennial crops and other trees. Therefore, it is recommended to pay full and fair cash compensation.

4.6.           Cumulative Impact Assessment

The cumulative impacts of this hydroelectric project, as shown in the table below, will be only on 442 households, 313.91 ha of total lands, 267. 91 ha farm lands and 239 residential houses.

Table: Summary of Project Impact by Project Component

Project components

Household (no)

Private land affected

Residential houses (No)

Total land







EEPCO camp





Chida- Sodo road





Transmission line










The cumulative effects of the four hydropower projects, in the the Omo river cascade, on the natural and social environment appear to be negligible due to their geographic location.

5.            Public Consultations and Disclosure Plan

A Public Consultation was initiated in 2006,2007 and 2008 during the initial phase of the Gibe III- Hydroelectric project. As part of this continuous process, a series of public consultations were carried out with Federal, Regional, Zonal, Wereda and local officials and institutions, PAPs, community elders and NGOs level. The overall number of the consultative participants drawn from administrative and community level amounts to more than 1,749, consisting of 203 Zonal and Wereda officials, 409 kebele peasant associations council members, 869 community members were consulted and 268 individual household heads were consulted privately.

6.       Environmental Mitigation, Management, Monitoring and Training Costs

The cost of the environmental mitigation plan which is Birr 445.2 million or about 40.5 million USD is considered as a component of the financial requirements of the project. Marginal benefits from the exploitation of the hydropower development should be set aside for financing the long term financial needs of the social and environmental needs of the area such as resettlement, agricultural extension, watershed management, development and management of buffer zones.

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Meles Zenawi

The Management , Employees  and  staff of  Gibe III Hydroelectric   project  of  the Ethiopian Electric Power  Corporation  express  their   heartfelt   condolences  on  the  sudden  passing  away  of  His Excellency  Ato  Meles  Zenawi, Prime  Minister of  The  F.D.R.E.
Our  sympathies go to his families, friends and to all peoples of Ethiopia.

Rest In Peace!!!
Gibe III HydroElectric Project office.