Zim, Zambia concerned about Batoka

Phillipa Jaja

Zimbabwe and Zambia are concerned about the slow progress at the Batoka project, which is currently struggling to attract funding for its completion.

Construction work at the project has been suspended for prolonged periods owing to lack of funding and also as a result of the coronavirus which brought the world to a halt between 2020 and 2021.

The financing of the development costs for the project was the responsibility of the Developer on a Build, Operate and Transfer basis, but the developer has been facing challenges in attracting potential financiers apparently because of the sovereign defaults (on loans) of the Contracting States.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently engaged with his Zambian counterpart, President Hakainde Hichilema on the side-lines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) to map a way forward regarding the completion of the Project.

The talks were driven by a need to attract funding for the project which has maintained a steady momentum since the Zambezi River Authority submitted the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for review.

For its part the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) has confirmed funding the Power project’s entire preparatory activities in its 2021 annual report.

 “The Authority continued to finance the project preparatory activities and studies. By the end of the year, USD1.3 million was outstanding for works yet to be invoiced under all the services rendered by various Consultants.”

Progress was also made in land acquisition for the project.

 “Land acquisition activities continued during the year under review with ZESCO Limited having managed to obtain title for the North bank project land for over 2,500 hectares in October 2021 while Zimbabwe Power Company was expected to complete the land acquisition process of 1,070 hectares within the first quarter of 2022.”

ZRA is a special agency controlled by both Harare and Lusaka to manage the Zambezi River.

The Batoka Hydro Power Project is seen as a key project to meet growing needs for power in Zimbabwe and Zambia and boost the hydro component in the Southern African Power Pool.

The Zambezi River has and its tributaries have a total hydropower generation potential of 20 000MW being produced on the North and South Banks as it runs between Zambia and Zimbabwe, representing about 20% of potential.

Zimbabwe’s industrialisation drive, particularly in mining has seen the power deficit ballooning in recent years hence the need for more power generation capacity.

The Batoka Hydro power project is for two power plants, each with an installed capacity of 1200 MW; one on the Zambian side and another on the Zimbabwean side.

It is located on the Zambezi River, approximately 54 kilometres, downstream of Victoria Fall straddling the international border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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