The Zambezi River Authority is embarking on the public disclosure of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report for the development of the billion-dollar Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme along the Zambezi River.
In a statement, ZRA chief executive Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa said the public disclosure, which started on Monday this week and scheduled to end on December 11 this year, would cover districts on both sides of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe and Zambia along the project stretch.
The disclosure meetings are aimed at ensuring that the project stakeholders are not left out in the project development process.
“The commenting period on the draft ESIA report will end on 25th January 2020 after which the comments received will be used to further update the draft ESIA report.
“The updated ESIA report will then be submitted to regulatory authorities for their further consideration and guidance.
“The engagement of the project area communities is part of a framework of on-going efforts to ensure that adequate and acceptable mitigation measures have been developed under the ESMP of the draft ESIA report under disclosure.”
He said the authority, working with its BGHES-ESIA studies consultant, the Environmental Resources Management of South Africa (ERM), the national power utilities – Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) and ZESCO Limited – has continued to progress with the public disclosure process for the draft ESIA report.
“In view of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Authority, in consultation with the National Environmental Regulators; the Environmental Management Agency of Zimbabwe (EMA) and Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) developed an alternative disclosure plan which involves the use of a limited level of physical meetings, virtual meetings/webinars and radio broadcasts within the project area.
“The alternative disclosure plan is currently under implementation and the Authority has accordingly requested interested and affected persons, groups and all members of the general public to participate and submit their comments on the draft ESIA report,” Eng Munyaradzi said.
The ZRA is a bi-national organization with a mandate to operate and manage the Kariba Dam and its reservoir as well as sustainably harness the hydropower potential offered by the waters of the Zambezi River for the socio-economic and industrial development of the peoples of the two countries.
The authority has been undertaking the preparatory activities for the development of the 2400MW Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES) located 47km downstream of the Victoria Falls.
Among the preparatory studies undertaken include the associated Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) studies.
ZRA has undertaken the BGHES-ESIA studies in line with regulatory requirements and international best practice to identify the potential positive and negative impacts associated with the planned development of the project with a view to developing mitigation measures for the negative impacts and enhancement measures for the positive impacts identified during the project ESIA studies.
“These measures are catalogued in detailed Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMP’s) which together with the associated draft ESIA report were placed in the public domain (at District offices, selected public places and on the Authority website) in March 2020 as part of the public disclosure process,” Eng Munodawafa said.
He said stakeholders who are not invited to attend the limited level disclosure meetings would be requested to review the draft ESIA report and submit their views/comments by visiting the link https://www.erm.com/bghes-esia/.
The prestigious project of Batoka Gorge, with its 2400 MW, will become the third largest hydropower plant in Africa and one of the sixty largest all over the world by generating capacity and its RCC concrete arch-gravity dam, with its 180 m, will be one the highest of its kind.