Batoka Gorge just below the Victoria Falls

Batoka Gorge just below the Victoria Falls

A stakeholders meeting was held in Victoria Falls at the Council conference room on Thursday 22nd of January.
David Schandler of ERM facilitated the meeting and was assisted by Mike Everit ( Erm  ) Nadia ( ERM ) Sue Childs (  Blackcrystal. – Zimbabwe EIA consultants  ) ( Kaizen Zambia EIA Consultants  ) Mr Kasara ( Head of Batoka Project from Zimbabwe River Authority Z.R.A. )
The presentation by ERM was thorough giving a good impression on the scope of work that has gone in to the study of the project, its viability and its nett effects on power generation, the ecosystem and the people of this immediate region should the project take off. That is not to say that the study is complete. A lot of further work is planned to assess these effects and pass the study on to the main design contractor firm which is Studio Pietrangeli
It will then be up to this company to collate the data provided by the Environmental companies and to propose the way forward, with the other information that they have, to the Zambezi River Authority.
It is pertinent to note that there will be a set of meetings held in the first week of February with an economic analyst firm to assess the projected economic effects, both negative and positive, that are expected by the community in Victoria Falls and the Zimbabwe community at large. We were promised further details on how interested parties can go about attending a meeting with this company. These have not been received to date. If and when they are received we will disseminate these immediately via this site.
If you have a particular interest in taking this option up or would like to make contact with ERM please use the email address batokagorgehes@erm.com
Summary of our understanding of the situation on this dam as it stands at the moment.
1.    Project likely to go ahead – It seems that this project is the most likely Hydro Power project to happen on the Zambezi and to add to this the fact that there is a push within the frame works of the SAPP ( Southern African Power Pool www.sapp.co.zw  – which is the collection of Southern African Countries who pool their power resource into a single pool ) to combine a sustainable mix of Coal powered and Hydro powered resource will very likely see the development of this Batoka dam go ahead. This very much seemed like the opinion of the above mentioned environmental companies. They feel that the funding will be made available and that the project has enough positive reasons to get the green light.
2.    Major Concerns – It is the opinion of the author of this article that there are two major concerns with this project
a.    The fact that the dam will cause the river to back up right the way to within 650 meters of the face of the Victoria Falls. ( approximately 2.2km of river line ) The nett effect of this fact could have major knock on effects for the viability of the Ecosystem in this region as well as the viability of the tourism industry in the medium and long term.
b.    The fluctuation of the water level of the dam on a regular basis every 6 to 24 hours ( exact figures are not clear as yet from the environmental team ) in order to make the type of proposed dam viable, will very likely cause a region of the gorge to be uninhabitable by a natural ecosystem and may result in an environment that is unviable for the species of trees, plant and other organisms that live in this area. ( Sterile )
The result could very easily be that this area will lose its UNESCO World Heritage Status.
More Acceptable Option
It seems that the above two issues had encouraged the Environmental teams working on this project to encourage the design team to contemplate the viability of the dam that would see the water level of the Dam only pushing the water to point some 3.5km from the Falls as the crow flies and some 10km of river line downstream from. Although this is not an ideal scenario it does mean that the stagnant and fluctuating water will end much further downstream of the Falls leaving the ecosystem within the two National Parks on either side ( Zimbabwe and Zambia ) untouched and intact – the nett result seeing the Victoria Falls Retaining its status as a World Heritage Site.
Point 1. Which is only 650 meters from the Falls is known as altitude level 757m above Sea level
Point 2. Which is the point some 3.5km from the Falls is known as 740m mark!
If this project is to go ahead then surely the tourism community and any concerned citizen or stakeholder in Zimbabwe and Zambia should be working together to ensure that the effect of the Dam does not negatively impact on the Tourism Industry and the Natural habitat immediately surrounding the Victoria Falls.

Fast facts
Project proposed to start
•    phase 1 – 2014 – 2017
•    phase two – 2017 – 2024 ( completion )
Proposed height
•    option one will see the peak of the dam be at altitude 757m – this will see the water level out to within 650 meters of the Victoria Falls ( direct line ) 2.2km by river.
•    option two will see the peak of the dam be at altitude 740m – this will see the water level out to within 3.5km of the Victoria Falls ( direct line ) 10km by river – NB this point is outside both the Mosi oa Tunya National Park in Zambia and the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and so outside the UNESCO World Heritage area.
Power Generation
•    Between 1600 MW ( initial project ) and 3000MW ( ultimate project )
•    The power generated will be used by the SAPP ( Southern Africa Power Pool ) community not just Zimbabwe and Zambia
Town to be built with a new border post
•    A town will be built near to the dam site that will include, housing, a run way, schools, medical facilities etc
•    New Border post will allow road and foot traffic to cross between Zimbabwe and Zambia
Job Creation
•    The project will create jobs for 1500 employees

VF24.com 5

26 January 2015