Ministers from Zimbabwe and Zambia say there is progress in the development of the US$4.6bn Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme despite disruptions caused by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The project, which will generate 2400MW to be shared equally by Zimbabwe and Zambia, has been given top priority under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, a continental initiative to build transboundary infrastructure projects to aid regional integration.
Last year, a consortium of Power Construction Corporation of China and General Electric won the bid to construct the power project.
In a communiqué by the Zambezi River Authority council of ministers after an extraordinary meeting held virtually on Wednesday, the ministers said there has been progress following the awarding of the tender to the consortium.
The virtual meeting was attended by Energy and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and their Zambian counterparts Matthew Nkhuwa and Bwalya Ng’andu respectively.
“The ministers noted with satisfaction that engagements between the consortium, the Authority [Zambezi River Authority] and power utilities had progressed well notwithstanding the disruption of some activities that were caused by the outbreak and spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the minister said.
The ministers said the launch of the Public Disclosure process of the project Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and Environmental and Social Management Plans Reports, a process aimed at ensuring transparency in the manner in which the project is being implemented was a key milestone.
“However, due to restrictions arising from the need to limit the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, “No Objections” from the environmental regulatory agencies of Zambia and Zimbabwe to hold public disclosure meetings through virtual means, complimented by limited physical meetings which would be held in line with public health guidelines would lead to the conclusion of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment studies,” the ministers said.
Another milestone, the ministers said, was progression of additional studies consisting of geotechnical investigation , power evacuation, market studies, systems integration studies, topographical surveys, bathymetric surveys and the feasibility studies for the transmission infrastructure, leading to commencement of project construction.
Other milestones include the coming on board of the Africa Legal Support Facility to provide legal, financial and technical resources, continued advisory support from the African Development Bank and the establishment of a project negotiating team and the change of land use from communal to urban.
The ministers said Zimbabwe approved and gazetted in August the change of land use adding that the final stages in the granting of title for land on the North Bank has “provided ample proof that the land for project development was available on title, a requisite in the provision of project finance by the developer”.
“The COM further noted that formal negotiations with the developer would commence in the fourth of 2020,” the ministers said.
The Zambezi River Authority is a corporate body jointly owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia and is mandated with the management of the Kariba complex and the Zambezi River.