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Thursday 28 February 2013

Zesa starts paying Zambia debt to facilitate Batoka power project

Africa Investor
26 Feb 2013
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) says it has started paying a US$70 million debt to Zambia, payment of which will enable the two countries to embark on the joint 1,600 MW hydroelectric Batoka power project. Zambia and Zimbabwe have started preliminary work on the project, which will have an estimated cost of US$2.5 billion. The power plant is expected to be built and operated by a private company for a period of years before transferring ownership to the two states.
ZESA Chief Executive Officer Elijah Chifamba says the debt was incurred when Zimbabwe sold off assets of a disbanded power firm jointly owned by the two countries to run hydro-electric plants at the Kariba Dam.
"Zambia needed to see first that we were committed to settling that debt and to demonstrate that we are bona fide partners before they could actually enter into the Batoka project. Because we have done so, that has unlocked the project," he says.
He says Zimbabwe will have paid US$40 million to Zambia by the end of March 2013. Zesa, which is owed US$740 million by non-paying customers, has been struggling to raise long-term finance to fund its projects. The company has, however, cleared US$100 million in debt for importing power from Mozambique’s Hydroelectrica de Cahora Bassa.
Zimbabwe is facing severe power shortages that have led to frequent electricity outages. Businesses and companies, particularly those in the mining and manufacturing sectors, have said that they are incurring huge costs in powering up operations through high voltage diesel generators.
Zimbabwe presently generates 1,000 MW, which experts say is only half of the power that the country requires.
Source: Africa Investor

Rhino top the agenda

Top of the conference agenda: The last chance to save the rhino
The Independent, 28 Feb 2013

With illegal trade in rhinos and elephants soaring, East Asian countries are under pressure to cut demand

The poaching crisis now engulfing Africa’s rhinos and elephants will be top of the agenda at one of the world’s major conservation conferences next week – with a global appeal to Vietnam and China.

At the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok, leading states including Britain will be putting pressure on the two Asian countries to curb their domestic demand for illegal rhino horn and ivory, which is driving the illegal killing of Africa’s biggest “big beasts” to unprecedented new levels.

Read more here

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Lions in crisis

At last the attention is being seriously focussed on thie issues of lion conservation and the dramatic loss of numbers (even the figure quoted below is believed to be an over estimate - a maximum of 20,000 appears to be more likely). Time for the international conservation community to act, for CITES to list the lion and endangered and to stop all trophy hunting of this species.

African lions – the killer kings in mortal danger from man and sham medicine
The Guardian, Monday 25 February 2013

Lion populations have fallen by 68% in just 50 years – from 100,000 to 35,000 today. What can be done to protect them?

Read more here.

Sunday 24 February 2013

On the elephant frontline

Here's a couple of articles I wrote for the Victoria Falls Guide site a couple of years ago on the problem of living with elephants around Victoria Falls town, which is surrounded by national park.

The Boys are Back in Town

On the elephant frontline

Photo Credit: Elephant (Peter Roberts)

Saturday 23 February 2013

Victoria Falls in helipad relocation controversy

ZBC News
21 February 2013

The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development has distanced itself from issues to do with the relocation of the Victoria Falls helipad to another site.

The development comes as there is speculation that the relocation is meant to pave way for an exhibition park which will be used during the UNWTO General Assembly in August.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development, Mr Munesu Munodawafa said the relocation has nothing to do with the UNWTO General Assembly, but has to do with the company involved, Zambezi Helicopters, the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and the Victoria Falls Town Council.

He said from the aviation point of view, the relocation would be necessitated by the helipad's proximity to the Elephant Hills Hotel and issues related to noise pollution.

Victoria Falls Town Mayor, Councillor Nkosilathi Jiyane said the land on which the helipad is currently located belongs to Victoria Falls Town Council on behalf of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development.

Zambezi Helicopters Public Relations Manager Clement Mukwasi said his company has complied with all aviation requirements and expressed disappointment at the three months' notice that his organisation received from the town council. He said the company should have vacated the premises by the 31st of March.

It is currently not clear where the company will be operating from after that date, but there are already fears that the relocation might temporarily affect the employees and tourists since the flights are some of the most popular activities in the town.

Source: ZBC News

Thursday 21 February 2013

Victoria Falls World Heritage Site Update

Bit of catching up with the state of play regarding official reporting on the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site, joint listed by Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In February 2012 Zambia and Zimbabwe submitted a comprehensive report covering progress made during the two-year period since the last report. The report addressed the specific issues raised previously (following the previous report) and provides a general update on the implementation of measures taken to satisfy the 2006 mission recommendations.
The reports detail joint management meetings and progress over the period, including work towards establishment of 57 benchmarks and indicators that will be used to monitor progress in maintaining the Outstanding Universal Value and ecological integrity of the site. A comprehensive monitoring plan for the site was planned to be submitted by December 2012.
Specific issues highlighted in the online summary include:
Control of invasive species
One major management issue is control of invaise non-native plants. Parties report an intensification of efforts to control invasive species in the falls area using mechanical, chemical and biological methods. A total of 2.5 ha of land was cleared of the invasive weed Lantana camara, but note that they face significant challenges due to its rapid regeneration. The slopes of the gorges are now becoming infested and control work is dependent on State Party funding, which is inadequate.
Tourism development and regulation
The Parties reported an increase in visitor numbers over the 2009 figure, with a combined total of 232,400 visitors in 2010 and 215,380 during the first 11 months of 2011.
On the Zimbabwean side it was reported that a new helipad has been completed away from the falls so that helicopter operators can be relocated and noise pollution reduced. Both State Parties have upgraded their visitor centres and installed electronic ticketing equipment. Other visitor facilities have been improved on the Zimbabwe side, with a new ticket office and upgrading of ablution facilities.
Zambia submitted a new project brief for a tethered balloon. The project brief for this proposal notes that the new location is south of the Eastern Cataract, meaning that the balloon would not appear in the viewing corridor of visitors viewing the Falls from the Zambian side.
Other conservation issues of concern – water abstraction, poaching, pollution, and urban development
An agreement has been reached to reduce water abstraction for hydro-electric power generation by the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), which entails a 40% reduction in power generation and correspondingly stronger flow of water over the falls for five hours daily during the critical dry months, when water flows in the Zambezi drop below 400 m³/s. This is intended to ensure that water flows over the eastern cataract (on the Zambian side of the falls) during these peak visitor viewing hours. However, the State Party notes that this measure will not be implemented until the power station is connected to the national power grid, and that there will be no reduction in power generation if the water flows in the Zambezi drop below 200 m³/s.
The report further noted that pollution arising from effluent discharge from urban areas on either side of the border is being addressed. Sewerage ponds on the Zimbabwe side have been rehabilitated, but those on the Zambia side are still reported to be leaking. Mitigation measures have been put in place to address pollution from boat sewage, such as the installation of chemical toilets on all boats operating on the Zambezi river.
'The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that despite some improvements, helicopter use and noise remains a significant concern that impacts on the quality of experience of visitors to the property and requires continued regulation and management. Furthermore, after reviewing the project brief, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the new location of the tethered balloon does not mitigate the visual impacts of the balloon on the view from the Zimbabwean side or from river cruises above the falls. They recommend that the Committee recall its Decision 34 COM 7B.6, which re-iterated that any tethered balloon projects close to the property would adversely impact its integrity because, when raised, the balloon is likely to appear within the viewing corridor of the Falls.'
'The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the measures taken to halt any furher development of hotels and other tourist facilities on the river banks and islands; to reduce noise and river pollution and to maintain the site’s visual integrity and natural unspoilt beauty. They also note that the State Party of Zambia has submitted three environmental project briefs for a five passenger tethered balloon, an amphicoach, and a tent sanctuary and spa lodge facility before taking a decision on these projects, as required by the Operational Guidelines.'
'However, with regards to the amphicoach project, the environmental project brief submitted does not currenty adequately address mitigation of visual and physical impacts. Considering the spa project, the brief should include a limit to the height of the tents and other infrastructure associated to the spa lodge, and specify measures to avoid impacts of the spa on the view from the Zimbabwe side of the river. Furthermore, regarding the spa site, adequate measures should be taken to avoid erosion of top soil within and around the spa lodge site, as well as silt run-off into the river or associated streams as a result of surface drainage of rainwater. While it is possible to assess the impacts of individual development projects on the property, the cumulative effects of a range of tourism related developments will together impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note historical concerns regarding the visual impact of high structures and recommend that the Committee request the State Party that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of development within the property and in its vicinity be conducted, in order to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including its aesthetic value and the related conditions of integrity.'
'The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the loss of revenue (estimated at USD 218,160 annually) that would be involved in reducing the amount of water diverted from the falls to generate electricity. They however note that the ZESCO plant, as reported by the State Party, requires 175 m3/s to operate at full capacity, which involves abstraction of 44-87% of typical dry-season flows over the September-January period. This level of water abstraction is clearly affecting the visual impact and aesthetic value of the property (the basis of its inscription on the World Heritage List under criterion (vii)), and may be having other long-term impacts such as degradation of the adjacent rainforest as a result of reduced spray at critical times. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the Committee urge the State Party of Zambia to consider further voluntary reductions in dry-season water abstraction so as to fully maintain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.'
Source: UNESCO Victoria Falls

Namibia to declare Kavango River as Ramsar Site

Catching up on some news from last month, soundings from Government Ministers in Namibia indicate that the country is preparing to list the Kvango River as a Ramsar Site. The section to be listed lies within the Bwabwata National Park. Also known as the Lower Okavango River, the designation is significant because of the importance of a co-ordinated management strategy for the Okavango and Zambezi Rivers.
Namibia currently has four sites listed under the Ramsar Convention; Walvis Bay, Sandwich Harbour, Orange River Mouth and Etoshia National Park.
Namibia, together with neighbours Botswana, Zambia, and most recently Zimbabwe, are all signatories to the Ramsar Convention on the protection of wetlands of international importance.
Source: Lower Okavango to be declared Ramsar Site.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Walking with lions – Conservation or abuse?

Whilst we are on topic, here's another background article on the ALERT/Lion Encounter 'Walking with lions' project, this time written by respected safari guide and conservation writer Ian Michler.
Walking with lions – Conservation or abuse?
By Ian Michler
Wildife Extra
Date: 2012?
There's a decided feel-good factor to cuddling a lion cub or riding an elephant; it's something that, given half a chance, many of us would do without thinking twice. But would we be contributing to research and conservation, as wildlife-encounter operations claim? Probably not, says Ian Michler.
Over the past decade there has been a proliferation of enterprises across Africa that offer interactive or close-encounter experiences with wildlife; sign up and you can walk or romp with a wild animal, cuddle it or even ride it. Such operations include primate and bird parks, elephant-back riding and diving with crocodiles; and the most popular are those that feature the large cats.
...Some of them take a frank approach and sell themselves for what they are - commercial ventures that rely on the lure of a ‘touchy-feely' encounter. But there are many others that have a deceptive tagline, promoting themselves under the banner of conservation, science or education in an attempt to acquire legitimacy for their activities. And, although organisations such as these may be supported by a sector of the general public and some of the large local and international tour operators, they find little favour within the wider conservation and wildlife management communities.
African Encounter and Antelope Park - ALERT
These communities' attitude to the African Encounter and Antelope Park outfits that run the ‘Walk with Lions' operations in Zambia and Zimbabwe suggests that they, for example, fall into the latter category. Both are directly linked to the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), which attempts to legitimise their lion captive-breeding programmes and money-spinning tourist operations. It claims that charging visitors large sums of money to walk with sub-adult lions and cuddle captive-bred cubs is justified because the outfits are involved in data-collection and reintroduction programmes. Is it coincidence that they have set up shop in towns that draw substantial numbers of tourists to view the Victoria Falls, one of Africa's iconic sights?
What's more, these outfits list a number of volunteer agencies as ‘supporters'. Persuading foreign volunteers to pay for an African experience on the basis that the work they do is beneficial makes for an extremely lucrative business model. But further investigation reveals that most of the volunteer agencies are also linked to the ALERT network.
And, ALERT's vigorous efforts notwithstanding, not a single recognised carnivore conservation or research institution in Africa or elsewhere will have anything to do with it. Panthera, a respected global organisation involved in wild cat conservation, brings together the world's felid experts to direct and implement effective management strategies. Notable exceptions from this pool are ALERT and its sister bodies.
Read the full article here: Walking with lions – Conservation or abuse?

Walking with lions - Conservation Myth

Here's another background report outlining issues which will be developed in future on this blog. In 2005 ALERT/Lion Encounter set up their 'Walking with Lions' captive breeding and interaction project in the Vitcoria Falls. Nearly ten years later and, whilst over 100 lions have been used in captive tourist interactions, raising many thousands of dollars in the name of conservation in the process, not one lion has yet to be released back into the wild. Indeed the project doesn't even pretend that it will be able to release the lions it uses in captive interactions back into the wild, but has developed a smoke-screen of 'rehabilitation' and 'release' stages to hide the truth - lions bred in captivity, taken from their mothers and imprinted on human handlers, and then used in captive interactions with tourists, can never be released back into the wild and are doomed to spend their lives in captivity. The only thing which varies is the size of the cage. This report has been specifically targetted at the ALERT/Lion Encounter project, and refers to it directly.
Report Finds Captive Lion Reintroduction Programs in Africa Operate Under 'Conservation Myth'
(from Panthera Press Release, 31 July 2011)
A new report published in the international conservation journal Oryx concludes that commercial 'wildlife encounter' operations across Africa promoting the reintroduction of captive lions do little to further the conservation of African lions in the wild.
'Walking with lions: Why there is no role for captive-origin lions (Panthera leo) in species restoration,' was authored by a blue-ribbon panel of lion conservationists and wild cat biologists from Panthera, the IUCN Cat Specialist Group and a team of university-based lion researchers. Demonstrating that no lions have been successfully released as a result of this process, the report determines that commercial captive lion reintroduction programs operate largely under a 'conservation myth.'
The last two decades has seen a rapid growth of such operations especially across Southern Africa. Advertised as 'wildlife encounters,' the programs typically charge tourists and paying volunteers to pet, feed and walk with hand-raised and so-called tame lions. To the paying public, the stated objective is the eventual release to the wild of lions.
The Oryx paper assesses the potential of these programs to assist wild lion conservation by evaluating the role and suitability of captive lions for release. The report concludes that captive-bred lions are simply unnecessary for reintroduction projects. For more than two decades, wild lions have been translocated and rigorously monitored in over 40 parks across southern Africa with high success rates. Over 500 wild lions have been re-established by this process. More importantly, the evaluation shows that captive-bred lions and their offspring are poorly suited for survival and release compared to their wild-born counterparts.
Read more: Panthera Press Release
Download the full report here
Read more on Dr Luke Hunter's blog here.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Zimbabwe joins Ramsar Convention

Peter Roberts

Zimbabwe has joined to the Ramsar Convention family as its 164th Contracting Party.

It was also confirmed in January that seven sites in Zimbabwe have been identified as potential Wetlands of International Importance (Victoria Falls National Park, Mana Pools, Monavale Wetland, Lake Chivero and Manyame, Driefontein Grasslands, Chinhoyi Caves, and Cleveland Dam) and were submitted on 3 January 2013.

The Ramsar Information Sheets for these new sites are still being prepared by the government, and we will be posting more details as soon as they are made available.

On the 1st February 2013 Ramsar Secretary General Sir Anada Tiega visited Malilangombe wetlands in the Matobo district of Matebeleland province to commemorate the landmark and celebrate 2013 World Wetlands Day with Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Francis Nhema, highlighted the importance of wetland conservation and the wider role they play. “Wetlands deliver essential environmental,social and economic goods and services such as local level climate control, flood mitigation, food and act as regulators and providers of water. The link between water resources management and the wise use of wetlands cannot be separated.”

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands vary according to origin, geography, water regime, chemistry, vegetation and soil characteristics. The term wetland has only come into use since the 1960s, and has generally come to mean any area of land of which the soil is permanently or temporally flooded with water - but definitions of wetlands vary.

The Ramsar Convention takes a broad approach in determining the wetlands which come under its aegis, and defines wetlands are defined as: “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres” (Ramsar Information Sheet No 1).

Why Conserve Wetlands?

The natural benefits and values of wetlands, which may be felt within the wetland itself or some way away from it (for example in the case of wetlands which absorb floods), can include sediment and erosion control; flood control; maintenance of surface and underground water supply and quality; abatement of pollution and even contributions to climatic stability.

Destruction of wetlands means either that these functions have to be provided artificially at considerable cost, or that the wetland has to be restored, which costs even more. Dr L Hoffmann, in his Foreword to ‘The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: its History and Development’ (1993): "Thousands of millions, probably hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars, are spent each year in the industrialized world in order to restore the hydrological and biological functions - functions which would be free of charge if wetlands had been conserved. Ground water protection and water purification measures, in particular, swallow enormous sums. The re-establishment of formerly drained wetlands is therefore becoming more and more discussed. This is often considered an ‘expensive joke’, but actually it is a very wise step towards a better economy in the future."

Wetlands are among the most productive life-support systems in the world and are of immense socio-economic and ecological importance to mankind. They are critical for the maintenance of biodiversity and perform a great role in the biosphere. They are also cradles of biological diversity, providing the water and primary productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. They support high concentrations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate species. Wetlands are also important storehouses of plant genetic material. Rice, for example, which is a common wetland plant, is the staple diet of more than half of humanity.

Wetlands provide tremendous economic benefits: water supply (quantity and quality); fisheries; agriculture, through the maintenance of water tables and nutrient retention in floodplains; timber production; energy resources, such as peat and plant matter; wildlife resources; transport; and recreation and tourism opportunities.

What is the Ramsar Convention?

The ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Wildfowl Habitat’, is an international treaty adopted at the International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl held at Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. The Convention came into force in 1975 and whilst it is still officially referred to as ‘The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)’, it soon became widely known as the ‘Ramsar Convention’. The great importance of wetlands as keystone habitats for the conservation of natural biodiversity was first recognised by European ornithologists in the 1960s who were concerned by the rapid loss of wetlands habitat critical to the survival of migratory waterbirds and initiated development of an international treaty to conserve wetlands across national boundaries.

The trans-national nature of wetland systems made their conservation and management an international issue, with many wetlands traversing national boundaries. The Ramsar Convention was the first of the modern global inter-governmental treaties on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources - the official name of the treaty, The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, reflects the original emphasis upon the conservation and wise use of wetlands primarily as habitat for waterbirds. Over the years, however, the Convention has broadened its scope of implementation to cover all aspects of wetland conservation and wise use, recognising wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation and for the well-being of human communities.

The mission of the Ramsar Convention, as adopted by the Parties in 1999 and refined in 2002, is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

By recognizing the importance of wetland resources, the Convention has been instrumental in world wide action at the governmental level for conservation and wise use of wetlands.

Further Information

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Friday 8 February 2013

Africa's last lions

africas last lions
Lions in danger - 75 percent of lion habitat has disappeared
Wildlife Extra - December 2012
Lion populations becoming more and more isolated across Africa. A new study has confirmed that lions are rapidly and literally losing ground across Africa's once-thriving savannahs due to burgeoning human population growth and subsequent, massive land-use conversion. Representing the most comprehensive assessment of the state and vitality of African savannah habitat to date, the report maintains that the lion has lost 75% of its original natural habitat in Africa - a reduction that has devastated lion populations across the continent.
Source and read more: WildlifeExtra - Lions in danger - 75 percent of lion habitat has disappeared

Thursday 7 February 2013

Brazilian Company expresses interest in building Batoka Dam

The Brailian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Marcia Maro da Silva, says a Brazilian company has forwarded an Expression of Interest to the Zambezi River Authority in the construction of the Batoka Gorge Dam. The closing date for formal Expressions of Interest in the project is tomorrow (Friday 8th Feb).

Source: The Zimbabwean

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Batoka Dam Update

(5th February 2013)

zambezi river dam projects

Background on the resurrection of the Batoka Gorge Dam development.

In September 2012 an American hydrologist criticised the plans for the proposed dam designs for the Batoka Gorge Dam and Mphanda Nkuwa Dam (Mozambique) for being based on archive hydrological flow patterns which have not been re-evaluated for future climate change risks including regional drought, reduced flows and increased risk of extreme flooding events.
The report by US State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services hydrologist Dr Richard Beilfuss states that the result of the construction of these projects in the Zambezi basin "may be economically non-viable dams" with "an underwhelming performance against more extreme droughts and can also be a danger because they were not designed to deal with the increasingly destructive floods ...The plans for two of the biggest dam projects on the Zambezi - the Batoka Gorge dam and Mphanda Nkuwa - are based on hydrological files and were not evaluated in relation to the risks associated with the reduction of average annual flow and more extreme cycles of floods and droughts." Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change, Beilfuss concluded that the Zambezi basin faces "the worst potential effects of climate changes, when compared to the 11 principal basins of Sub-Saharan Africa, and will face more substantial reduction of rainfall and runoff".
Source: Proposed Zambezi hydropower dams pose some risks, expert warns
In December 2012 Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) invited Expressions of Interest (EoI) from prospective developers on a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) basis, with EoIs to be submitted by 8 Feb 2013.
Source: Batoka power project goes to tender
Details of the project were summarised in the invitation:
"The Batoka Gorge HES is to be located across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe at 18º 1’ S 26º 34’ E, upstream of the existing 1,470 MW Kariba Dam hydroelectric scheme. The proposed scheme includes a 181 m high Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) gravity arch dam, radial gated crest type spillway, two underground power stations on each side of the river with four 200 MW Francis turbines installed in each, giving a total capacity of 1,600 MW for the scheme. The scheme is designed as a run-of-the river scheme with an estimated average energy generation of 8,700 GWh/year. The reservoir is fully located within the Batoka Gorge and has a relatively small surface area of 26 km2."
Reports expect the project reach completion by 2019. Zambezi River Authority (ZAR) chief executive officer, Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa, said the Batoka project would be the largest hydro-power plant in the southern hemisphere and was expected to have a positive socio-economic impact on people from the two countries. “We are looking at the economic benefit the locals are going to derive from the project. Batoka power plant will generate 1 600 megawatts upon completion of the dam."
Fresh feasibility and EIA studies to determine actual works and financing costs for the Batoka Gorge project will have to be undertaken due to the lapse of time (the original feasibility studies were completed in 1993 and a revised EIA undertaken in 1998). Zambia’s power utility Managing Director, Cyprian Chitun, said fresh environmental impact assessment studies will be conducted before the actual construction begins. "An expression of interest was tendered in the press to look for consultants to review the study that was conducted in 1992. We need to ensure that the feasibility study is brought to speed," local source reported. ZRA public relations and communications manageress, Ms Elizabeth Karonga, confirmed the authority was waiting for a new updated Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report before commencing the construction of the dam
In January 2013 it was announced that ministers from Zambia and Zimbabwe were meeting in Victoria Falls to discuss the development of the project
Zimbabwean Energy and Power Development Minister, Elton Mangoma, was reported as saying "We will be looking at all the issues that deal with Kariba Dam, the Batoka project, Devil’s Gorge and also the social aspects — the work to be done for communities around the Kariba Dam," perhaps referring to the still embittered communities resettled after the building of the Kariba Dam in the late 1950s. Mangoma also reported that the tender process for the Kariba 7 and 8 expansion was now at an advanced stage with a funding package expected to be completed by March this year. “The contract for Kariba 7 and 8 has been signed and works for mobilisation are being done. As for Hwange 7 and 8, two tenders are being evaluated and once a tender has been awarded, a final decision would be made. The tender board would be advised,” he said.
Source: Zim/Zambia tackle Batoka project
In early February it was announced that Zimbabwe and Zambia had agreed to set up a steering committee to work with the Zambezi River Authority in constructing the Batoka Gorge power generation plant. Mangoma said that “we will be opening a road to the project site by June from both sides,” he said, adding that the two parties would now be meeting quarterly to review progress.
Source: Zim/Zambia set up Steering Committee for Batoka Project
Location of the Batoka Gorge Dam
The proposed Batoka Gorge dam site is situated on the Zambezi River approximately 3km downstream of Mwemba Falls and 54km downstream from the Victoria Falls, extending across the international boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Grid Reference for the proposed Batoka Gorge Dam is ML 055-178 on the 1:50,000 scale topographical maps from both Zambia and Zimbabwe (GPS 18º 1’ S 26º 34’ E) . On the Zambia side, Livingstone is approximately 28 km north-west of Batoka Gorge, and on the Zimbabwe side Hwange is approximately 55 km south-west of Batoka Gorge.
Project Objectives
The project aims, as listed by Tumbare (2010) are to:
  • - Improve current power generation at Kariba and Kafue through conjunctive operation;
  • - Provide a reliable source of power for industries thus enhancing expansion and consistent industrial/manufacturing productivity;
  • - Provide additional power to meet electricity demand for Zim and Zam, thus reducing pressure on forests and other organic fuels, and thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • - Reduce dependency on coal-fired power stations, which are expensive to run, thereby reducing the associated carbon dioxide (C02) emissions;
  • - Provide an alternative road link between Zam and Zim across the Zambezi River
Excess power will be exported to the region. The project will also create employment for the local communities, international and regional professionals.
History of the Batoka Gorge Dam
The first geological studies of the Batoka Gorge were undertaken in 1904 with the construction of the Victoria Falls Bridge and planning for the Victoria Falls Hydro Electric Scheme (the project was not realised until 1938).
In 1972 a report by Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners identified several sites on the Zambezi which would be potentially suitable for development as hydro electric schemes. These included Batoka Gorge, Devil’s Gorge, both upstream of Lake Kariba, and Mupata Gorge, downstream of Kariba Dam. The reservoir level for the dam was determined as 762 m above sea level.
In 1981 a second Gibb report relocated the proposed dam site some 12 km upstream due to a mapping error. The reservoir level remained unchanged. The current technical, legal and environmental feasibility studies were carried out in 1993. In 1995 Zambia abandoned the project in favour of cheaper alternatives. A revised EIA was undertaken in 1998 and attempts were made to launch the project again in 2007, but failed due to lack of funding.
Early in 2012 the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe agreed the settlement of outstanding debts relating to the Kariba Project, and clearing one of the last major obstacles to the progression of the project, and together with the securing of World Bank funding the project was well and truely ressurrected.
The Management of the Zambezi River Basin and Kariba Dam M J Tumbare (2010)
Batoka Gorge Feasability Report - Executive Summary - Zambezi River Authority (pdf, 1993)
Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric Scheme Project (pdf presentation, 2005).
Important Bird Areas of Zimbabwe - Batoka Gorge (pdf)
HYDROPOWER Zambezi Basin overview (pdf)
Save the Batoka Gorge There is also a Facebook group called Stop The Batoka Dam On The Zambezi River


Thornicroft’s Giraffe

Another old article from the Zambezi Traveller (Issue 5, June 2011)
Peter Roberts
Thornicroft’s Giraffe is a morphologically distinct subspecies of giraffe, identified by its dark star-shaped or leafy spot markings which extend down to the lower leg. It is one of two mammal subspecies endemic to the Luangwa Valley, the other being Cookson’s wildebeest.
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is the tallest of all extant land-living animal species and the largest ruminant. Related to other even-toed ungulates, such as deer and cattle, it is placed in a separate family, the Giraffidae, consisting of only the giraffe and its closest living relative, the okapi, and their extinct relatives.
The giraffe was originally thought to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, a mistake immortalized in the giraffe's scientific name of Giraffa camelopardalis. The giraffe’s ‘horns’ are correctly termed ossicones.
Giraffe populations are estimated to total less than 80,000 individuals and are notable for their highly fragmented distribution. There are currently nine recognised giraffe sub‐species, differentiated by size and the colour and pattern of the markings on the coat. Recent genetic studies have indicated that several of these subspecies are distinct species in their own right, and that the Thornicroft's giraffe belongs to one of possibly six unique giraffe species.
Despite its prominence, limited monitoring and research has been undertaken on the Thornicroft's giraffe. In 2008, the Wilderness Wildlife Trust established the Luangwa Thornicroft's Giraffe Project to collect baseline information through the development of a photographic database. Coat patterns are unique to individuals and remain unchanged for their entire lives (although shade may change with age) allowing researchers to identify individual giraffe and furthermore track their movement and habits.
As an iconic symbol of Zambia, the Thornicroft's giraffe is an important tourism drawcard for visitors to the country and thus an economic asset for Zambia. It is currently estimated that fewer than 1,500 Thornicroft's giraffe remain in the wild.

Monday 4 February 2013


When I'm lucky enough to be in Victoria Falls I'm often up early out and about in the bush, birding and photographing my way around. The other morning, much to my surprise, I found this little fella, a lone lovebird, near to the Big Tree along Zambezi Drive. It is very likely an escaped bird, as many have been kept in cages by local residents and escaped over the years, although they are rarely seen. The only naturally occuring species, the black-cheeked lovebird, is extinct in the local Victoria Falls area.
Photo Credit: Lovebird (Peter Roberts)

The Victoria Falls Rainforest

Last year we developed an extensive section of pages on the Victoria Falls Rainforest for the Victoria Falls Guide (all articles researched and written by Peter Roberts).
The Victoria Falls Rainforest
Animals of the Rainforest
Plants of the Rainforest
Interesting Rainforest Facts
Photo Credit: Falls Spray (Peter Roberts)

David Livingstone and the ‘discovery’ of the Victoria Falls

2013 marks the 200th anniversary of David Livingstone's birth. Last year, on the 157th anniversary of his 'discovery' of the Victoria Falls, we looked at Livingstone and his legacy in relation his most famous discovery for the Victoria Falls Guide (all articles researched and written by Peter Roberts).
David Livingstone and the ‘discovery’ of the Victoria Falls
For more detailed backgrund on David Livingstone and his Zambezi travels see To The Victoria Falls.
Photo Credit: David Livingstone (To The Victoria Falls)

Zimbabwe to launch Tourism Masterplan

Zimbabwe: Tourism Master Plan to Be Launched
2 February 2013

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation has helped Zimbabwe come up with a Tourism Master Plan that should see the country's tourism and hospitality industry more than double in growth and tourist arrivals by 2015.

In an interview at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid, Spain, the organisation's director for technical co-operation and service Dr Harsh Varma, said under the plan that is now awaiting a launch in Harare in a few weeks, Zimbabwe will be helped to increase its tourist arrivals from 2,2 million to 5 million in two years.

"The master plan takes into cognisance Zimbabwe's political, economic, social, cultural, technical and geographical aspects and when implemented should see tourist arrivals increase from the 2010 figure of 2,2 million to 5 million in 2015.

"Jobs in the industry should increase from the current 200 000 to 450 000 by the same year, while the country's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product will increase from 9,1 percent to 15 percent by the same year," said Dr Varma.

Asked how he had come up with the fugures, Dr Varma, who met with the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Walter Mzembi, early yesterday morning, said there was wide consultation and investigation on the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe, during the crafting of the plan.

Read complete article here.

Shoestrings Lodge, Vic Falls

And here's one of my sponsors - Shoestring's Lodge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The liveliest backpackers in town, central location, good value, crazy bar and great friends. Thanks for everything guys, you really are amazing.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Batoka Gorge Dam

batoka gorge dam

Here's an issue which I reported on in the Zambezi Traveller back in March 2012. Amazingly, in Feburary 2013 few people in Victoria Falls realise that this is very much happening. Talk of daming the Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls has dragged on for so many years that everyone is probably assuming that it is never going to happen because it hasn't happened yet. Well, it's happening - at the beginning of last 2012 the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe agree settlement of a debt problem which had previously blocked agreement on the Batoka dam project. World Bank funding is also in place, and latest reports on the ground are that the road infrastructure to the dam building site is well on its way to completion.

Batoka Dam One Step Closer

Batoka Power Scheme Revisited

There's also some background to the development here - Save the Batoka Gorge, and a summary of developments as at the September 2012, written for the Victoria Falls Guide, here. Photo Credit: Zambezi Traveller