The Death of A Lake: Nobody Took Care of It

Girma Moges is angry. He was here in eastern Ethiopia four years ago when the pump he managed for a decade stopped forever. And he’s still here now, just outside the ancient walled city of Harar.

As the chief of the Haramaya Water Supply, he still has his office in the old pump house with its cracked dials and rusted gears and broken windows, the pump house that once brought water to Harar from nearby Lake Haramaya. And he’s still angry.

The pump house might have kept going for years. But there was less water each year. Finally, there was no water at all, and nothing left to pump.

“Nobody took care of this lake.” Mr. Moges said in a recent conversation. His frustration showed in his face and his voice rose in fury. “Nobody cared for the lake or cleaned it,” he said, waving his arms in all directions to include everyone he could think of, his neighbors, the farmers, the herders, the town officials and the powerful people in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Instead, Mr. Moges said, people used the lake until it was no more.

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