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Omo River Basin Hydro-Graphics

THE OMO RIVER BASIN cradles a 621-mile river tumbling from Ethiopia’s highlands to an arid transboundary desert lake mostly within Kenya. Ancient, indigenous Omo cultures, self-sustaining for 6,000 years, now struggle with droughts, famine, political turmoil and a lack of clean water and sanitation. Large new dams upstream and climate change are dislocating these communities dependent on their traditional flood-recession agriculture. Kenya’s Lake Turkana suffers from the replacement of its riverine forests by foreign agricultural and irrigation projects that are predicted to reduce the lake’s levels by 70%.

Dams, large-scale agriculture and a Sudan-Kenya highway over the Omo may bring food security, flood control and hydropower. Proposed roads, markets and water/food storage facilities may alleviate the instability of rain-dependent subsistence farming. Yet an influx of foreigners, water extraction for irrigation, and loss of fisheries critical to national protein supplies may destroy this Cradle of Humankind, its cultures and its ecosystems.