Zimbabwe and Zambia to revive Batoka hydro-power project

By Wallace Mawire

Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Power plant. Credit: Construction Review Online
Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Power plant. Credit: Construction Review Online

Zimbabwe and Zambia are set to revive progress on the implementation
of the Batoka hydropower scheme whose feasibility study has been
gathering dust since 1993 with the co-hosting of an investors
conference to attract donors for the project scheduled for the 30 of
March, 2017 in Livingstone, Zambia.

The Batoka project is being spearheaded by the Zambezi River
Authourity (ZRA), a bi-national organization jointly and equitably
owned by the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

ZRA was established 30 years ago, as a corporate body, by parallel
legislation in the parliaments of Zambia and Zimbabwe to be
responsible for the management of the portion of the Zambezi river
which flows between the two common borders.

The development of the Batoka Gorge scheme is a regional development
initiative on the Zambezi river with the potential to economically
empower first and foremost the peoples of Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well
as the SADC region.

The scheme’s first feasibility studies were commissioned in 1992,
the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Social Impact
Assessment (SIA) were carried out in 1993 and 1998 respectively. The
project is expected to generate 2 400 Megawatts of power at an
estimated cost of $4 billion.

According to a ZRA spokesperson at a media launch held recently in
Harare, Zimbabwe, the preparatory process which was undertaken with
financial support from the World Bank under the Multi-Donor Trust Fund
known as Co-operation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) is
nearing completion and the submission of final reports should pave way
for the commencement of construction works.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Energy and Power Development, Dr Samuel
Undenge said that SADC Council of Ministers (COM) at its last meeting
in December 2016 adopted a resolution to hold an investor conference
to gauge the interest in the Batoka gorge hydro electric project by
financing institutions, developers and contractors.

Undenge said that the investor conference would provide the
governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe with a platform for the
presentation of the two governments’ vision and strategic orientations
on the proposed development of the project. It will also market
investment opportunities presented by the project.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Patrick
Chinamasa said that the power plants for the project will be developed
under a project finance structure and owned by a Special Purpose
Vehicle with funding coming from the private sector and respective
utility companies.

Some of the benefits of the project he highlighted at the media
briefing in Harare include the project raising the share of renewable
energy sources in electricity from 42% to 80%.He said that this will
ensure compliance with environmental requirements guiding the level of
carbon emissions.

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