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The United Nations has come out in support of critics of Ethiopia's massive Gibe III hydropower project, calling for work to be suspended until the negative impacts of the dam can be assessed.
The UN World Heritage Committee, which establishes sites to be listed as being of special cultural or physical significance, said the Gibe III dam's construction endangered the existence of Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world.
In 1997 Lake Turkana, which straddles the Kenya-Ethiopian border, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Gibe III dam is being built by Italy’s Salini Construction company, and a Chinese state-owned bank has approved funding for the project, Kenya's The Daily Nation newspaper reported.
Both Ethiopia and China, as members of the World Heritage Committee, were asked to fulfill their responsibilities for the protection of the site.
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi defended the decision to expand dam projects and scathingly denounced the project’s critics, saying, "The views of western critics are ironic as Ethiopian facilities are infinitely more environmentally and socially responsible than the projects in their countries, past and present," adding that those who were advocating against hydropower electricity generation were condemning Africa and its people to remain in extreme poverty before concluding, "They are concerned about butterflies' lives, but not human diseases."
By. Charles Kennedy, Deputy Editor OilPrice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com