Batoka Gorge power project construction to start next year

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Gracious Madondo

The long-awaited construction of the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station is finally set to begin next year after Zambia and Zimbabwe secured funding partners for the massive plant, which is expected to produce 2.400 megawatts at its peak.  

Elizabeth Karonga, the public relations and communications manager for Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which manages the Zambezi water, said the African Development Bank is advising the authority on raising funds for the project and it is likely that it will reach financial closure by the end of the year. The project is estimated to cost US$4 billion.

Karonga said the engineering and legal assessments for the power plant were successfully carried out in 2016.

“The legal and financial advisory studies were completed end of July 2016. This also applies to the environmental and social impact assessment studies as well as the legal and financial advisory studies,” Karonga said.

Karonga said studies have shown that 6,000 jobs will be created once the construction of the Batoka Hydro Power Project between Zambia and Zimbabwe commences.

Several challenges had stalled the construction of the massive power project. Besides scouting for financial partners, the project had faced resistance from local communities, who felt that such a project has the potential of negatively impacting the Victoria Falls, a UNESCO world heritage site.

However, the chief executive officer of the Zambezi River Authority, Munyaradzi Munodawafa, said feasibility studies undertaken on the site have allayed environmental fears to the Victoria Falls, which is upstream.

“The reservoir will be fully contained in the gorge, no resettlement is required for the dam, but may be required for the transmission aspects of the project,” said Munodawafa.

Munodawafa said the 2,400-megawatt project would help ease the rising demand for electricity in Zambia and Zimbabwe. He expressed satisfaction over the project’s financial support, saying the interest from financers was huge.

A project overview document prepared by the ZRA states that plans for the development of a hydro-electric power scheme on the Zambezi River started way back in 1904.  

More extensive work with regards to a potential hydro-electric power scheme on the Zambezi River downstream of Victoria Falls began in 1972. However, when suitable sites for the development of such a scheme were investigated, and where, as part of this study, the Batoka Gorge, Devil’s Gorge and Mupata Gorge sites were specifically identified for further study. 

The 1972 study identified the Batoka Gorge as the most suitable site for a potential hydro-electric power scheme, although engineering and geological investigations were undertaken at the time identified a site some 12 kilometres downstream from the site now identified as the most suitable location for the proposed Batoka Gorge hydro-electric power development.

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