East Africa: Water proves a prize asset
16 April 2012
BBC - 16 April 2012
On first acquaintance, it's hard to see Ikal Angelei as a rebel.
Too young, too mild-mannered (perfect English diction), too much at ease in T-shirt and trousers.
It's a salutary lesson in never judging the book by the cover; because this young woman is leading a protest movement that could yet block one of East Africa's most significant infrastructure projects.
The campaign has netted Ms Angelei one of this year's Goldman Prizes, one of the highest annual honours for grassroots environmental activists.
Not that there are too many grass roots in the Turkana region of Kenya, on the border with Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda. Rains have been infrequent as far back as communal memory stretches and have become even scarcer in recent years.
The region's prized water resource is Lake Turkana.
It's one of those unusual "endorheic" lakes that has no outflow; water that flows in, and is not used directly, either evaporates or percolates down into aquifers, which in turn provide water for those pastoralists who keep their herds some way distant from the lake itself.
Now, the Ethiopian government is building a major dam, GIBE-3, on the Lower Omo river just over the border. The Omo currently provides about 80% of Lake Turkana's water.