Zim & Zam Presidents Discuss “Reviving” Batoka Hydroelectric Scheme Project

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema this week discussed the revival of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Power Project. According to reports, the project is expected to supply 1200MW each to Zimbabwe and Zambia. 

The discussion by the two presidents took place on the sidelines of the 42nd Sadc summit held in Kinshasa.

Said Mnangagwa about the meeting:

“We took this opportunity that we are both here in Kinshasa and we are neighbours. We decided to have a chat to share on issues of interest between Zimbabwe and Zambia, in particular, you all know about the Batoka Gorge which is a joint project between Zambia and Zimbabwe, so we were discussing how to move forward.”

Said Hichilema:

“We had a good catch-up meeting and discussed issues around the Batoka Gorge hydropower project which has been on and off, we would like to revive it, it is green energy. I really want to thank His Excellency President Mnangagwa for taking the initiative for us to have a catch up meeting here and agree on how to move forward.”

Zimbabwe has had a significant serious power deficit for more than a decade owing to limited generation capacity and insufficient money to import power.

This has meant load-shedding which has affected both consumers and businesses. This has resulted in a trend by Zimbabwean households and businesses to resort to private solar installations for their needs. 

According to ZPC, the country currently generates 1250MW of power from the Kariba Hydro Power Station (873MW) and Hwange Thermal Power Station (377MW).

The proposed Batoka Hydro-electric Scheme is located on the Zambezi River, about 54 km downstream of the Victoria Falls, across the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The project is administered by the Zambezi Rivery Authority, which is equally owned by the two governments.

A brief historical timeline of Batoka Gorge Hydro Power Project

  • 1904: Geological investigations for potential sites for a Hydroelectric station commenced. 
  • 1972: Only 7 decades later, further investigations identify Batoka Gorge, Devil’s Gorge and Mupata Gorge as potential sites for the project. The Batoka Gorge is identified as the most suitable site for a potential hydropower scheme.
    This work is carried out by the Central African Power Corporation with the aim of identfying possible power sources to meet the power demands of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • 1981, 1982, 1983, 1989: Three more phases of site/geological investigations are done resulting in a new preferred
    Batoka Gorge site (12 km upstream of that defined in 1972). 
  • 1992, 1993, 1998: Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), a successor of the Central African Power Corporation, commissions the Batoka Gorge Joint Venture Consultants (BJVC) to carry out a feasibility study for the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydropower scheme.
    An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for this proposed scheme was also undertaken as part of this feasibility study, and to address gaps identified
  • 2012: A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is signed between Zambia and Zimbabwe to develop the BHES project, in February. Zimbabwe had agreed payment of over $70 million to Zambia in settlement of outstanding debts relating to the division and sale of joint assets following the break up of the short-lived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which united Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi (the Federation was established in 1953 and lasted only ten years). The settlement of this debt had, until now, been a stumbling block to the development of the Batoka Gorge Dam project.
  • 2014: In 2014, the ZRA initiated some further studies on the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme.
  • 2015: Zambezi River Authority engages Ernst & Young as financial and legal transaction advisors for the development of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme. The company is charged with developing a “bankable” structure for the protect’s financing.
  • 2019: A consortium led by Power Construction Corporation of China (Power China) and General Electric (GE) is selected as the contractor for the Batoka Gorge hydropower project July.

There’s been some concern from the tourism sector that the Batoka Hydro Power project will disrupt the tourism industry by “drowning one of the most highly regarded sections of commercially operated white-water rafting in the world under its waters.”

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