photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 Ja…

Dublin Core


photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 Ja…


Neil Shea







POINT (-13676665.587775, 5704472.85861819)

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photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 Jackhammers, drills, heavy machinery. Loud mechanical hunger. High on Ethiopia's Omo River, in a narrow gorge running through hard, beautiful country, a dam is being built. Tunnels are bored into the mountain. Steel is mated to rock. Men scrape and toil in damp, echoing passages. These are good jobs, difficult to get and far from home. The dam, called Gibe III, will be Africa's largest, a 243-meter curtain of concrete drawn across the river. It will generate electricity, tame the unruly flow of water. More lightbulbs, fewer floods, that sort of thing. If you live upstream, closer to the capital, the dam is Good News. Power, factories, plantations, progress—a dam offers all this. If you live downstream, however, there is something wrong with this story. Dams change everything below them. You need those floods, after all, to replenish cropland. The jobs and electricity will probably go to foreigners, or at least northerners. And the plantations, laid out for sugar and cotton, things you never needed, will creep along the riverbanks like plaque along an artery. Of course, the dam and its consequences have never been explained very well. Part of the problem is language: “damâ€ù doesn't translate easily into the tongues of the southern tribes. Neither does “megawatt.â€ù But the word Destiny is sort of understood, and so it is often employed. “It is our destiny to develop this land,â€ù a government man says, sweeping a hand southward. “It is our duty to make the river work.â€ù Who can argue? Whoever tries is an enemy. So listen, lazy river. Wake up. Hustle. Work. The sun is high and the boss is watching and you have lain there long enough.

For the last six years, Randy Olson and I have been documenting change, conflict, and culture in the watershed that connects southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. Next week, we'll publish in @natgeo magazine the latest in our series, #NGwatershedstories. Join us as we follow water through the desert.You can also find this series archived here: #omoriver2009.

#2009 #africa #ethiopia #omoriver #dam #rivers #conservation #nowaternofuture #geneticislands #documentary #instaessay @thephotosociety




Neil Shea, “photo by @randyolson | words by @neilshea13 Ja…,” The InstaEssay Archive, accessed August 5, 2020,