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Monday 30 November 2020

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the Proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme

 ERM Ref: 0239269         EMA Ref: 17/1/1/3A        ZEMA Ref: ZEMA/DEPT/101/1/3

Dear Stakeholder

RE: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the Proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (Zambia and Zimbabwe) on the Zambezi River: Invitation to Webinar

Environmental Resources Management Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd. (ERM) has been contracted by the Zambezi River Authority (the Authority) to undertake the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study for the development of the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (BGHES) on the Zambezi River, 47km downstream of Victoria Falls.

On 03 March 2020, ERM notified stakeholders of the availability of the draft ESIAs for public review and comment, and invited stakeholders to attend ESIA disclosure meetings in Zambia and Zimbabwe, which were proposed to take place during April 2020.  In light of the COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) pandemic, the Authority and ERM made the decision to postpone all public disclosure meetings. This decision was in response to government-mandated travel restrictions and bans on gatherings of more than 100 people, which were imposed within certain southern African countries.

Given the ongoing level of global uncertainty associated with COVID-19, the Authority and ERM would like to disclose the ESIA findings using alternative methods currently available. 

You are invited to attend a ZOOM webinar where the key findings of the ESIA process will be shared with you. The meeting will include a presentation, following which participants will have the opportunity to interact with the project team, ask questions and provide comment. 

Meeting Time:

2 December 2020 at 09:30 AM

To register for the meeting, click on the link below, complete the registration and you will received a personal invitation to the webinar directly from ZOOM.

Availability of the Project ESIAs for Review & Comment

As a reminder, the draft ESIAs for the BGHES are available for public comment. Refer to Project website to access the ESIAs and non-technical summaries. 

Three separate draft ESIAs have been prepared for the Project as follows:

§  ESIA for the dam wall and impoundment, including spillway; surface power houses; the Project townships (in both Zambia and Zimbabwe); and other ancillary infrastructure (such as quarries, spoil areas, batching areas);

§  ESIA for Project access roads in both Zambia and Zimbabwe; and

§  ESIA for Project Transmission Lines in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The comment period, which has remained open since 03 March 2020 will be closing 25 January 2021.  Stakeholders are invited to submit all comments on the draft ESIAs to ERM as follows:

Email: | Post: Postnet Suite 90, Private Bag X12, Tokai, 7966

Tel: +27 21 681 5400 (South Africa)

+27 11 798 4300 (South Africa)  

+263 77 287 6616 (Zimbabwe)

+260 97 4074384 (Zambia)                         

Your comments will be incorporated into the Project ESIA comments and responses report, which will be included in the final ESIAs submitted to Zimbabwean and the Zambian Environmental Management Agencies (EMA and ZEMA) for consideration. Please ensure that your comments reach ERM on or before 25 January 2021.

For any further queries regarding the content of this letter, please feel free to contact us with the details included above. 

We look forward to your participation in this phase of the ESIA.

Yours sincerely                                                                       

The ERM Team

Environmental Resources Management (ERM)


Sunday 29 November 2020

Kazungula Bridge boosts Bots tourism

 Harare - The opening of Kazungula Bridge will boost tourist arrivals into Botswana’s tourism mecca of Kasane, the country’s Tourism Minister Philda Kereng has said.

The bridge straddles the Zambezi River at Kazungula Crossing where Botswana and Zambia share a border, and also stretches over the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe rivers where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet.

The 923m and US$259 million bridge is part of a broader infrastructure initiative that will ultimately connect the Port of Durban in South Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Botswana’s Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism Minister Kereng said the bridge is expected to open to traffic this year.

The gateway to Chobe National Park, Kasane spreads out along the banks of the Chobe River where an array of hotels, guest houses and campsites can accommodate all the visitors to the world-renowned facility.

“This bridge has recently been handed over by the contractors, it is complete. It is a bridge that is quite a milestone for the economy of Botswana and for the tourism industry,” Minister Kereng said after touring the bridge last week.

“We appreciate this bridge very much especially at this point where we are diversifying tourism, Kasane becomes a much more diversified location or tourist destination. Also for tourists, when you go to London (England) for instance, you have the London Bridge and all these big rivers with nice bridges they are tourist attractions on their own so we are looking at this beautiful bridge and saying it is going to interest our tourists after seeing the animals there is also something else they can see. It will be able to enhance the face of Kasane.”

Minister Kereng went on: “We are also informed that this bridge is well blended into the ecosystem, the environment of Chobe. There is a railway line that has been incorporated into the bridge, and the interesting part is that this bridge has incorporated features that are friendly to the environment, we hear that there is a breeding place for hippos near the bridge and the rubber that has been used around the railway is going to absorb all the sound that would otherwise disturb the animals.”

Botswana recently allowed the resumption of chartered flights into the country's prime tourist destinations, in an attempt to boost the tourism sector which has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chartered flights are being allowed to land at two airports in Maun and Kasane, both in the vicinity of the vast Okavango Delta, one of the world’s largest wetlands.

Tourism contributes around 13 percent to the So/uthern African country’s GDP./

Source: Kazungula Bridge boosts Bots tourism (28/11/20)

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Business activity picks-up in Vic-Falls

 Leonard Ncube

IMPROVED business activity is being recorded in Victoria Falls as tour operators and hoteliers gear up for the festive season.

Some of the hotels and lodges reportedly have significant bookings mostly from locals for the festive season, the first meaningful bookings since the end of March when the industry closed after the outbreak of Covid-19. Tour operators, hotels and lodges closed operations as the country joined the rest of the world to impose travel restrictions. The Government later gave the greenlight for re-opening of the sector with strict adherence to mitigation measures.

The industry has been slowly re-opening in Victoria Falls with African Sun being the first to reopen its properties – Elephant Hills and Kingdom Hotel, more than a month ago.

Shearwater Adventures re-opened its Shearwater Explorers Village Hotel last week while Africa Albida Tourism, which operates Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, The Boma and Lokuthula Lodges is set to open on December 10.

Several other hotels and lodges have also opened and many are offering up to 50 percent discounted rates particularly to domestic tourists.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chair for the Victoria Falls chapter, Anald Musonza, said many operators were coming back to normal business. Shearwater chief executive Mr Mike Adams said they expect full bookings on accommodation for December.

“We had been on a roller-coaster over the years but Covid-19 is the biggest challenge we have ever encountered. We have just re-opened most of our facilities including Explorers Village and activities like boat cruise and we will be open until Christmas time when we expect a spike in December but January and February will be quiet,” he said.

Adams said they will be offering special discounts to make products affordable to locals. He said the industry will start realizing meaningful business next year.

“There are tough times ahead but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Borders are opening slowly, which is good but for now income streams are still turned off,” he said.

Adams said he was hopeful that clients who had booked when Covid-19 broke out and have not cancelled their trips will rebook next year.

Shearwater Explorers Village was opened four years ago with 16 chalets and has expanded into a 96-room facility

The industry is recovering from headwinds caused by the Coronavirus, which has disrupted global travel and economic activity. Some operators have managed to retain most of the staff while others laid off three-quarters of workers.

Source: Business activity picks-up in Vic-Falls (24/11/20)

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Two cargo trucks sink in Zambezi

 Kazungula police are investigating two rare and bizarre accidents in which two trucks sank into the Zambezi River as they attempted to board the Kazungula ferry on Saturday and Monday respectively.

According to Kazungula Police Station Commander Superintendent Paul Chaluza, in the first incident on Saturday, a truck carrying building material from South Africa to Zambia slid off the pontoon and fell into the Zambezi River.

“The surface is sloping and slippery, and from what we’ve learnt, the truck never made it fully onto the ferry before it slid into the river.

Fortunately, the drivers managed to quickly jump out of the cabin and onto the ferry before the trucks were fully submerged,” said Chaluza.

The Station Commander further revealed that no one was hurt in the accident.

“The truck was also successfully pulled out of the river the same day,” he said.

However, just two days later on Monday afternoon, another truck hauling salt from South Africa to Zambia suffered the same fate, as the trailer head slid-off the pontoon into the river, carrying with it tons of salt.

“Just like in the Saturday incident, the driver managed to escape unharmed,” Chaluza told The Voice.

He further said the cause of the accident is not conclusive and their investigations continue.

“We can’t say accidents were due to human error, the cause could be mechanical, and as I told you, the area is sloping and slippery. We can only be certain after the completion of our investigations,” he said.

The costs of the damage are yet to be compounded, but it is estimated to run into millions of Pula.

The Kazungula top cop however said the incidents of sinking tricks are rare in his jurisdiction.

“These are isolated incidents. It does happen but not in quick succession like we experienced this week,” he said.

Estimated to have started operating in Botswana in the mid-60s, the pontoon’s days as a reliable mode of transport are numbered with the new impressive Kazungula Bridge due to open for business on 1st of December.

Source: Two cargo trucks sink in Zambezi (17/11/20)

Monday 9 November 2020

Victoria Falls Town to be redesigned

 THE Government is planning to redesign Victoria Falls Town which will see some buildings demolished and reconstructed to maximise on the “little” available land as the local authority transforms into a city.

Parliament recently approved that Victoria Falls be granted city status, a development that will catapult the tourism resort town to growth.

The city status comes along with additional responsibilities and the local authority will need more land for infrastructure development among other changes. What is left is for President Mnangagwa to make the official pronouncement and if granted the status, Victoria Falls will be the first city based on tourism industry in the country.

Victoria Falls was designated a Special Economic Zone and is central to a cocktail of developments comprising Masuwe, Batoka town, Mlibizi, Binga, Sijalila and Gwayi-Shangani. Local Government and Public Works Minister Cde July Moyo told Parliament that planning and designing of a mixed-use development for the Victoria Falls Mixed Commercial use project has started. Victoria Falls Town is situated on 2 900ha of land and cannot expand because it is surrounded by national parks.

“There is a detailed plan about the development of Victoria Falls itself. The present Victoria Falls is sitting on 2 900ha and we want to preserve that as it is. The additionalities are outside those 2 900ha and we want to redevelop. The town is host to significant Government real estate which unfortunately is in a dilapidated state. To this end, 35 houses around the city centre have been identified for redevelopment. The houses are sitting on approximately 3,5 hectares and this needs redevelopment and regeneration. As you go into Victoria Falls, you see houses on your left before you reach OK Stores, those houses belong to Government and there are large tracks of land and we are saying as Government, let us densify and create an ambiance that will attract investors,” said Minister Moyo.

He said the municipality had already come up with a development model which will soon be tabled before Cabinet for approval.

The new developments will see the Vehicle Inspection Depot (VID) being relocated while some old buildings owned by Government in parts of Chinotimba old suburb will be demolished and upgraded. The council has also indicated about ongoing engagements towards relocating the Zimbabwe National Army Victoria Falls barrack.

“They have even said let us move the VID so that it does not create the noise that it is creating today. So the municipality has been preparing and in some case has attracted investment already and when it attains the municipality status, Government must recognise that it has grown,” added Minister Moyo.

The minister said the municipality had since awarded a Design and Construct Commercial Contract on a Build-Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis to Cardinal Corporation Private Limited for expansion projects. The Government wants to develop Victoria Falls into its conference capital and to show commitment, there are close partnerships by Zimbabwe Investment Development Authority, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry as well as Local Government and Public Works.

Source: Victoria Falls Town to be redesigned (08/11/20)

Thursday 5 November 2020

Vic Falls Residents Forced To Use Bush Toilet As Water Shortages Rock Town

 VICTORIA FALLS: The tourism town of Victoria Falls is facing an unprecedented water crisis that has seen residents in parts of Mkhosana going for a fortnight without the precious liquid.

The worst affected dwellers are those in Mfelandawonye, BD847, BD848, and BD46 sections which have not had water in their taps for more than two weeks.

What characterises most households now are an offensive strong stink of poo as there is no water to flush toilets posing a huge health time bomb to a town that is set to be granted city status.

Some residents have resorted to using the bush to relieve themselves with open defecation now rife.

The municipality has restored to supply the residents with water bowsers and long winding queues of thirsty residents jostling to fill their buckets as they endure the hot weather without water.

Residents are pressuring the residents’ association to stage a demonstration against the local council and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) which pumps bulk water to the municipality.

The residents believe there is a lack of commitment from the council and ZINWA as the water shortages have become a perennial challenge.

Every year between September and December, the resort town’s residents have to endure the hot weather with no water.

Unlike other towns, there are no boreholes in Victoria Falls because of the Kalahari soils and depth of water table.

“The situation is dire. Some areas have not had water for two weeks and you can imagine how people are surviving. Having to hunt for water each morning. This is happening when hotels are closed and where demand is low. Imagine if the whole industry was open, we would have had waterborne diseases. People are now using the bush to relieve themselves and we fear disease outbreak,” said one resident.

Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association chairperson, Kelvin Moyo called for calm saying engagement with the authorities was underway.

“Our town is faced with an unprecedented water crisis that has affected both residents and business. Residents are agitated and want to demonstrate. We are aware of the urgency this matter requires and as such we will be convening a tripartite meeting with ZINWA and council management. The situation needs to be attended to with a sober mind in order to resolve the perennial challenge,” said Moyo.

Source: Vic Falls Residents Forced To Use Bush Toilet As Water Shortages Rock Town (4/11/20)