THE construction of the US$3 billion Batoka Gorge Hydroelectricity Scheme is set to start by the end of next year after the completion of the US$2,5 million access road linking Victoria Falls and the Batoka Gorge through Chisuma area.
However, construction of the access road on the Zambian side is still to be competed with only less than 2km left.
The recent completion of the access road to the gorge on the Zimbabwean side would facilitate feasibility studies and designs for the station.
Zimbabwe and Zambia are expected to get 1 600MW from the envisaged project. The scheme would see the construction of a 54-kilometre Batoka Dam upstream of Lake Kariba.
Addressing journalists during a media tour of the Batoka Gorges in Zimbabwe and Zambia recently, Zambezi River Authority spokesperson Ms Elizabeth Karonga said the authority had launched the tendering process for an environmental impact assessment of the project.
“The Zimbabwean and Zambian governments have agreed on the need to set aside their differences emanating from the dispute over payments on the Kariba Dam and we have had a commitment from both President Mugabe and President Sata on the need to expedite the project.”
She said the authority was not expecting challenges from environment and social impediments since the area earmarked for the project was not populated and has minimal animal movement from the site.
“We expect the project to commence at the end of 2014 and the project would take at least seven years to complete.”
ZRA hydrology technician Mr Samuel Mwale said the hydroelectricity project would add significant power to alleviate power shortages in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“The dam completion would see the generation of 1 600MW, that is 800MW on the Zimbabwean side and similar amount on the Zambian side.
“This would see both countries receiving quite a significant amount of electricity to alleviate power shortages in both countries,” he said.
Mr Mwale said there would be minimum environment and social impact on the communities.
“The dam wall would be about 181 metres in the Batoka Gorges and all the water would be confined in the gorges and this would have minimum impact on the environment and societies,” he said.
ZRA is a corporate body jointly owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia through bilateral agreements to co-manage the shared stretch of the Zambezi River and it has been managing Lake Kariba and its attendant infrastructure to facilitate and support hydropower generation through the country’s power utility companies.
Zambia and Zimbabwe have agreed to expand hydropower infrastructure on the Zambezi River.
The process leading to project implementation is organised under five main areas, namely that preparatory works, tendering process, organising
project implementation, approval and awarding of contracts and construction and supervision of physical works.