In the early 90s, while at the University of Zimbabwe, I wrote my thesis on the positive and negative environmental impacts of tourism development in Africa. One of the subjects was the proposed Batoka Gorge Hydroelectric project to be built down river from the world’s largest waterfall – Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River.
Having gone white water rafting through the gorge numerous times over the years I can understand the logic of putting a dam in the is location… but what a shame to flood out such a beautiful remote area.
Now in 2017 the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe are ready to start construction.
The dam will be built 54 kilometers from Victoria Falls, in the deep Batoka gorge – carved from the basalt by the Zambezi River. The huge hydropower dam would be one of Africa’s tallest at 181 meters and would create a large reservoir which upon completion, would have the capacity to generate around 2,400 MW of power (1,200 MW for Zambia and 1,200 MW for Zimbabwe. Two power stations are set to be constructed on the northern and southern sides of the dam, just like at Kariba Dam.
The long and narrow resevoir will hold 1,680 million cubic metres of water, and stop about 1 kilometer from the plunge pool beneath the Victoria Falls.
The project is expected to take about 10-13 years to complete. If you want to raft the world’s greatest 1 day white water run or enjoy the serenity of this beautiful remote spot do so now… in a few years rafting the Zambezi beneath the Falls will be just a memory.
Experts say the Batoka project would be the third largest hydropower development on the Zambezi River mainstream, after Kariba and Cabora Bassa in Mozambique. Attempts by environmental activists to dissuade the two governments from undertaking the project on the basis that it would disturb the flora and fauna have been dismissed as non-consequential, especially compared with the massive economic potential the dam will have on both Zambia and Zimbabwe. The low settlement density in the area will also minimise the number of people needing to be resettled.
The objective of the project is to increase power generation and capacity between Zambia and Zimbabwe, reduce power outages and reliance on coal fired power stations. Increased power supply will also create opportunities for improved water and sanitation service delivery as most urban wastewater systems are energy dependent.
Once completed the Batoka Hydropower Scheme will leave Zambia and Zimbabwe as net exporters of power in the region after meeting local demand.