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Zambezi - wild and free or Batoka dammed!
The Zambezi River lies deep in the Batoka Gorge but for how long? Batoka Dam construction is planned for early 2018. But, is this the end of the lifeblood for many Africans?
Zimbabwe and Zambian governments are on board with the proposed construction on the Zambezi River, just downstream from Victoria Falls. As one of Africa’s most bio-diverse rivers, the Zambezi already has more dams along its course than any other river. So with 2 dams on the river’s main-steam and 30 dams on its tributaries, the health of the river is in a fragile state!
Below rapid #25 on the Zambezi River you’ll enter a world with white Kalahari sand beaches between basalt black rocks and rubble of the Batoka Gorge, the river’s your only way in and out!
So, what’s the affect of building the Batoka Dam?
- The new hydro-power Batoka dam is set to be one of Africa’s tallest cutting through the Batoka Gorge and down to the Zambezi River
- the Batoka Gorge area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plans to dam the Batoka Gorge have been ‘considered’ for the last 70 years
- the Batoka Dam will reduce the natural habitat of the riverine valley and the rapids upstream
- altering the natural environment will have a negative impact on the resident endangered bird species. Birdlife International have listed the Batoka Gorge as an ‘Important Bird Area’ for conservation importance. Putting species such as the Taita falcon at further risk. The gorge is also home to a further 34 raptor species including black eagle or Verraux’s eagle and other birds of prey
- the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme would impact environmentally on the World Heritage site by flooding the gorge - a 2 million year old geological formation!
Location and spec
The proposed Batoka Dam Hydro-Power Project:
- 54 km downstream from the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River
- upstream of the existing 1,470 megawatts Kariba Dam hydro-electric scheme.
- across the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe
- 181-metre high dam wall retaining 1,680 million cubic meters of water, covering around 26 km. sq.
- reservoir with a catchment area of 508,000 km2.
- creates a long, narrow reservoir running upstream to about 1 km from the Victoria Falls “Boiling Pot”
- 2 underground power stations on each side of the river both housing 4 x 200 megawatts turbines providing a total capacity of 1,600 MW
- average energy generation estimated at 8,700 gigawatt-hours per year. Shared between Zambia and Zimbabwe
- cost estimated at US$6 billion - so the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe have appointed the African Development Bank Group (ADB) as lead coordinator for the project
- completion 10-13 years
About the Zambezi River
There are three stretches of the Zambezi River:
- Upper Zambezi - flows from its source to Victoria Falls. Waters rise from November to the end of March to early April.
- Middle Zambezi - flows from Victoria Falls to Kariba Gorge
- Lower Zambezi - flows from Kariba through Cahora Bassa to the Zambezi Delta
The Lozi people live in the un-dammed Upper Zambezi. An area of vast floodplains and home to traditional fishing, sport fishing safaris and tournaments. In addition, the game fishing of the fighting tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) attracts anglers from across the globe.
Gorges, rapids and falls line the Zimbabwean and Zambian border. So this is the middle Zambezi and home to the majestic Victoria Falls and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The waters from Victoria Falls flow through the Batoka Gorge. The Gorge attracts large numbers of tourists because it’s one of the most popular stretches for whitewater rafting so they all contribute to the economy of the area.
Finally, investment comes with risks: Predicted revenue may not be realised because climate change has affected the Zambezi basin. Also other dams built along the Zambezi have been subject to misfortune leaving many people impoverished rather than helped.