Impacts of the hydropower-controlled Tana-Beles interbasin water transfer on downstream rural livelihoods (northwest Ethiopia)

Sofie Annys, Enyew Adgo, Tesfaalem Ghebreyohannesd, Steven Van Passel, Joost Dessein, Jan Nyssen

    Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan tijdschriftA1: Web of Science-artikelpeer review


    Despite public awareness of unintended impacts (1980s) and well-developed international standards (2000s),
    downstream impacts of large hydropower projects still very often are not properly assessed. Impacts of (hydropower-
    regulated) interbasin water transfers (IBWTs) are considered self-evidently positive, although they can
    have far-reaching consequences for hydrogeomorphological systems and consequently river-dependent communities.
    In this study, the downstream direct and indirect impacts of the Ethiopian hydropower-regulated Tana-
    Beles IBWT are evaluated in an interdisciplinary way. The components of the framework of rural livelihoods are
    considered and changing contexts, resources’ availabilities and livelihood strategies are analysed. Mixed
    methods are applied, combining hydrogeomorphological field observations, GIS analyses, scientific literature,
    policy documents, and semi-structured interviews with local people and local to federal authorities. Results show
    that the IBWT drastically increased the Beles river’s discharge (with an average release of +92m3 s−1 at the
    outlet; *2 in rainy season and *12 in dry season 100 km downstream of the water release) and introduced
    dangerous situations for local communities (over 250 people drowned in the river). River bank erosion resulted
    in the uncompensated loss of farmland (163 ha) and the establishment of large-scale commercial farms increased
    the pressure on land and led to the impoverishment of displaced communities (4310 households). The project
    was implemented top-down, without any transparency, benefit sharing or compensation for external costs. This
    stresses the importance of downstream interdisciplinary impact assessments and highlights the need for decent
    in-depth ex post-analyses of hydropower projects. Environmental impact assessments should be taken seriously
    and cannot be considered a formality. In Ethiopia and in many developing countries, the hydropower industry is
    booming. Although dams and IBWTs can be the best solution for water-related problems in specific contexts,
    national development goals (such as the expansion of the electricity network) should not be at the expense of
    rural livelihoods.
    Oorspronkelijke taalEngels
    TijdschriftJournal of Hydrology
    Pagina's (van-tot)436–448
    Aantal pagina’s13
    PublicatiestatusGepubliceerd - 2019


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