By Debra Matabvu
Zimbabwe and Zambia are satisfied with progress on the US$5 billion Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (BGHES), which is expected to produce 2 400 megawatts.
Zambezi River Authority (ZRA)’s Council of Ministers — made up of both ministers of energy and finance from the two countries — recently held a virtual meeting where they were briefed on the completion of the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the project, as well as engagement of firms on legal, financial and technical services to begin engaging the developer.
BGHES is projected to generate annual revenues of over US$750 million for Zimbabwe and Zambia upon completion, according to the ZRA, which manages water resources in the river on behalf of the two sister Republics.
A communiqué released by ZRA last week showed that an updated report on the ESIA will be submitted to Zambia Environment Management Agency (ZEMA) and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) by the end of March.
“The Council of Ministers was briefed that the public disclosure process of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study was completed, and updating of the study has commenced whereby a revised report will be submitted to Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) and Environmental Management Agency (EMA) by mid-March 2021,” read the communiqué.
“The Council of Ministers noted with gratitude that the Africa Legal Support Facility (ALSF) had started to provide legal, financial and technical advisory services that would assist the ZRA in undertaking negotiations with the developer.”
A few years ago, ZRA enlisted a South African firm to undertake an ESIA study for the project, which included livelihood studies of affected communities, household census, socio-economic survey, and asset inventory to restore and potentially improve the livelihoods of the economically displaced.
Power China and General Electric (USA) are working on the project.
The bilateral project is located about 50 km downstream of Victoria Falls.
The Council of Ministers also noted the technical delay in the rehabilitation of the Kariba Dam wall, which will now be pushed back by two years.
The rehabilitation project, which commenced in 2017, comprises the reshaping of the plunge pool and the refurbishment of the spillway gates.
The US$294 million project is being funded by the European Union, World Bank, African Development Bank, Sweden and the ZRA on behalf of the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The Council of Ministers recognise that the Kariba Dam rehabilitation project was a complex and very essential project with the objective of improving the safety and increasing the lifespan of the Kariba Dam,” added the communiqué.
“The Council of Ministers further noted that early delays in contracting the works were compounded by unforeseen technical challenges and more constraints due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic.”
ZRA believes it is still possible to complete the rehabilitation project within the set time frame due to “the modified designs of the spillway refurbishment”.
The spillway refurbishment works, which began in September 2019, are being implemented by a consortium of GE Hydro France and Freyssinet International. They are expected to be complete by December 2023. The Sunday Mail