In 1985, the Aral Lake in Europe was the largest lake in the world, but 29 years later, in 2014, the lake is no more. The same fate befell Lake Chad in the Central Africa republic. The gradual decrease in the two lakes’ water levels has been blamed on the development of Hydro-electric dams. Though there is no hope for these two lakes, there is hope for Lake Turkana. Located on the border between Kenya and Ethiopia, the lake is the largest fresh water body in Northern Kenya and faces the same threat that Lakes Chad and Aral faced some twenty or so years ago.
Lake Turkana’s main water source is River Omo, which is located in Southern Ethiopia. It is on this river that the Ethiopian Government plans to construct additional two Hydro-electric dams to add to the already existing two on the same river. According to Dr. Sean Avery, a Water Resource Professional and environmentalist, the construction of Gibe3, which is already under construction and is expected to be opened by 2015, will have a massive impact on Lake Turkana’s water levels. Currently, the depth of the lake stands at thirty one feet, and according to a research conducted by International Rivers, a Non-profit organization, the water depth may decrease with a massive twenty feet.
The situation is worsened by climate changes and the lack of political goodwill from the Kenyan and Ethiopian Governments. According to Ikal Angelei, the founder and CEO of the Friends of Lake Turkana Organization, the construction of the Gibe 3 dam, will have a negative effect on the lives of the people who reside on the shores of the Lake. The Turkana person, a tribe of nomadic pastoralists and fishermen, rely on the Lake for fishing and is their primary water source.
The discovery of oil in the Turkana Lake basin has further worsened the situation, with international corporations scrambling for a piece of the vast expanse of land that is the Lake Turkana Basin, at the expense of the native inhabitants. The Turkana people have been forced to search for new areas to settle as these corporations position themselves to reap from oil exploration.
In a bid to spread awareness on the impending catastrophe, Friends of Lake Turkana, International Rivers, Stand Up Shout Out and PAWA 254 hosted a youth forum on the topic. The forum brought together young people of all ages and races. The message from the forum was loud and clear; the world cannot stand and watch as a people’s heritage is signed away in the name of provision of sufficient energy.