Lake Turkana Considered for "World Heritage In Danger" List

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lake Turkana – the world’s largest desert lake, which supports 300,000 people and untold biological riches, and is a World Heritage Site – is at risk of ecological collapse because of the diversion of the river that is its main supply of water. The situation now unfolding could escalate starting in May 2015, when the reservoir of the Gibe III Dam, under construction in Ethiopia, begins to fill. Construction on the dam and related irrigated plantations in the valley continues unabated despite warnings from many quarters that the risk of disaster is real and should be addressed quickly. Under this “business as usual” scenario, Lake Turkana could join the ranks of other major lakes that have disappeared because of human hubris, including the Aral Sea and Lake Chad.

Due to the urgency of the situation, the World Heritage Centre recommended that Lake Turkana be listed as a World Heritage Site In Danger on May 15, 2014, due to the negative impacts these hydrological changes will bring. The World Heritage recommendation “urges the State Party of Ethiopia not to start the filling of the dam and to halt the construction of the large scale irrigation projects” until a comprehensive environmental study of the developments is completed, and appropriate mitigation measures are identified to guarantee sufficient inflow of water to Lake Turkana." The World Heritage Committee will vote on this issue in mid-June.