The size of the proposed U$4.6bn Batoka Gorge Hydro-electric Scheme (BGHES) will be reduced to protect the Victoria Falls and power generation station in Zambia, the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) has said.
Viewed as the panacea of electricity problems facing Zimbabwe and Zambia , the project will see two power stations being constructed to produce a combined 2 400 megawatts to be shared equally by the two countries. A Chinese contractor, Power Construction Corporation and General Electric of the United States of America won the tender to develop the Batoka project, which is located 47km downstream of the Victoria Falls.
Munyaradzi Munodawafa, the the CEO of ZRA, which is owned by the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia , on Tuesday said limiting the dam’s height was one of the mitigatory measures highlighted in the environmental and social impact assessment studies on the project. ZRA manages the water resources of the Zambezi River and Kariba Dam compex.
This will “prevent the water backflow from reaching and impacting areas of special interest such as the Victoria Falls, the existing ZESCO Limited Power Station, the Victoria Falls and Mosi-o-Tunya National Parks” .
“The other measures highlighted included the adopted reservoir operation rules that were developed with a view to ensure the balancing of power generation whilst allowing for the continuation of other river-based activities and environmental flows (e-flows),” Munodawafa said.
“This includes activities such as White-Water Rafting and e-flows that would support the continued existence of downstream ecosystems.”
The project is expected to create 4,000 direct jobs and 6,000 indirect jobs for Zimbabwe and Zambia during the construction phase.
Munodawafa said the power project has kicked in some developments in Zimbabwe and Zambia to take advantage of the power scheme.
The Hwange Rural District Council in Zimbabwe is making plans to develop a multi-million-dollar iconic city near the project site so as to take advantage of the economic benefits which will arise from the implementation of the BGHES.
A similar project is expected to be unveiled by the Mukuni Development Trust in Livingstone, Zambia, Munodawafa said.
“The Authority therefore foresees major economic benefits which will positively impact the two countries and generate revenue of over USD$750m annually which will enhance the GDP of the two contracting States,” he said.
BGHES been given top priority under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, a continental initiative to build transboundary infrastructure projects to aid regional integration.