PREPARATORY works are progressing well on the planned construction of the US$ 4 billion Batoka Hydro-Electric Scheme (HES) at Batoka Gorge located about 54 kilometres downstream from Victoria Falls extending across the international boundary of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The project, which was approved by the two countries in 2012, would produce 2, 400 Megawatts (MW) of electricity and create 3, 000 job opportunities during the peak of construction works.
There will be 1, 200 MW power plant on the Zambian side and another 1, 200 MW on the Zimbabwean side.
The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) has been mandated by the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe to facilitate the implementation of the project, which was approved in 2012, in close consultations with ZESCO and Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).
ZRA Chief Executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa said preparatory works were progressing well from the time the project was approved in 2012.
Mr Munodawafa said this on Tuesday afternoon in Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe after a delegation of ZRA Board Members as well as journalists from Zambia and Zimbabwe inspected the proposed site for the power station on the Zimbabwean side.
“We are progressing well in the preparatory activities of updating the previous feasibility studies and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.
“Currently, we have done almost 98 per cent of updating engineering feasibility studies while the final report of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment will be released by the end of November 2016,” Mr Munodawafa said.
He said the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was an important undertaking for the Authority to start mobilising funds for the project.
“In December 2016, we will have a Council of Ministers meeting where a fully-fledged feasibility study and EIA reports will be presented and discussed.
“The Council will direct the two Ministries of Finance in Zambia and Zimbabwe to start mobilising finances. The two have already anticipated this directive and they already wrote to the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) to take interest and to be the lead arranger,” Mr Munodawafa said.
He was hopeful that the funding for the project would be mobilised before 2018 after which procurement and tendering processes would start in readiness for the construction which is expected to be concluded between 2021 and 2024.
Mr Munodawafa said ZRA had also carried a lot of geotechnical investigations to establish on how Batoka Gorge dam would be constructed.
“A lot of drilling was carried out recently. Four major boreholes were drilled out of which two were drilled on each side of the banks and they were 100 metres in length as the structure of the dam has to be solid.
“Studies have indicated what stones to be used and where to get the stones from. Within the month of October, we will know how the dam will be. This is the major issue which has drawn us back as we did not have the data. We have learnt a lot in terms of Kariba dam and we won’t leave any stone unturned,” Mr Munodawafa said.
He also said about US$ 5 million had been spent to construct access roads to the site on both sides of Zambezi river.
ZRA Board Chairperson Patson Mbiriri said all the previous studies had indicated that there would be no displacement of people during the construction of the project.
Mr Mbiriri, who is also Zimbabwe Permanent Secretary for Energy and Power Development Patson Mbiriri, also said that white water rafting activities would be disturbed during construction.
“In place of rafting, we will give you rowing. Between Batoka and Kariba, there will be scope of continued rafting.
“When you look at rafting, how many people are employed and who is benefiting from rafting as money is usually paid in offshore account?
People come from across the world and the numbers don’t justify 2, 400 MW. We can’t forget the need for power demand in our economies,” Mr Mbiriri said.
Zambia’s Director of Energy at the Ministry of Energy and Water Development Oscar Kalumiana said the power project was complex and it required careful planning before implementing it.
Mr Kalumiana, who represented the Permanent Secretary in his Ministry as co-chairperson, also challenged the media to package the power project into a simplified language that the public would understand.
“You can imagine how old Kariba Dam is and it is still standing. You need to check the firmness of the foundation before drilling the dam.
“From the two Governments points of view, there is progress being done and we are on schedule,” Mr Kalumiana said.
ZRA Project manager Ezekiel Kasaro said about US$20 million had been spent on the project since 1981 to conduct feasibility studies and other preparatory works.
Source: Plans for the 2, 400 Megawatts Batoka Hydro-Electric Scheme progressing well (29/09/16)
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