Friday, 11 October 2013

Changing the nature of the Batoka Gorge

Text and image credit Peter Roberts
From the latest issue of the Zambezi Traveller.

It was confirmed in August that Zimbabwe had paid Zambia US$40million of its debt relating to the construction of the Kariba Dam. The payment, made by the state-owned power utility company ZESA, represents over 50% of the total outstanding amount, with the remainder due to be settled by March 2014.
The debt, dating from the 1960s and the breakup of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (modern day Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi), was a stumbling block to the development of the Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Scheme (HES) in the 1990s.
Whilst the positive benefits of the project in terms of generating much needed electricity is not in doubt, there is much uncertainty over the possible negative impacts on the environment and on the tourism industry. The dam site, approximately 50km downstream of the Victoria Falls, will create a lake that will flood the gorges back upstream, reaching within a close distance of the outlet for the existing Victoria Falls Hydroelectric Station, at the junction of the second and third gorges.
It is more than likely that the wider environmental impacts of a project like this will only become known after its construction. Scientists are still learning ecological lessons from Kariba, half a century after its construction.
However the project will also create new opportunities which may benefit tourism and wildlife. The lake will provide a new playground for leisure activities, much like the larger Lake Kariba, and will undoubtedly also create new opportunities for wildlife which will have access to perennial water along side gorges and gullies of the lake.
Whilst the full impact of this development project still remains to be seen, one thing is for certain – the nature of the Zambezi and the Batoka Gorge will be significantly changed as we seek to harness the river’s power.
Source and full article: Changing nature (ZT, Sept 2013)

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