The UN Grants Approval for $5 Billion Batoka Gorge Project Construction

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The authorization for the construction of Batoka Gorge project a $5 billion hydroelectric dam downstream from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Victoria Falls, has been granted by the United Nations, as confirmed by the overseeing entity responsible for its progress.

Environmental activists have expressed objections to the Batoka Gorge project, situated 47 kilometers (29 miles) from the world’s largest waterfall. They are concerned about its potential impact on the cascade, a highly frequented tourist attraction in both countries.

Munyaradzi Munodawafa, the CEO of the Zambezi River Authority, highlighted that in response to concerns raised by certain environmentalists about the potential impact of the Batoka project on Victoria Falls, Unesco dispatched inspectors in 2022. Following their examination of the reports and presentations, a consensus was reached during a World Heritage Committee meeting held last month, where it was agreed that the Batoka project could proceed as planned.

Projected Power Generation from the Batoka Gorge Project

As per a report from the American news organization Bloomberg, the commencement of the construction of the 2,400-megawatt and 181-meter (594-foot) tall dam and associated power plants, led by a consortium with General Electric Co. and China’s Power Construction Corp., was initially slated for 2020. However, due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and financial challenges, this timeline was delayed.

Both Zambia and Zimbabwe, which already jointly operate the Kariba hydroelectric complex further to the east along the Zambezi River, have encountered difficulties in meeting their electricity demands on occasion.

Munyaradzi Munodawafa stated, “Now we are in a favorable position. We are on firm ground, and by the end of the following month, I will have a definite start date.”

The African Development Bank plays a pivotal role in arranging the finances for the Batoka project. This initiative is designed as a run-of-river project, meaning it involves minimal water storage behind the turbines, which helps mitigate the impact on Victoria Falls.

Disagreements persist between Zambia and Zimbabwe regarding thenconstruction of $5 billion Batoka Gorge project. Zambia’s Energy Minister, Peter Kapala, voiced concerns in June, citing that the arrangement with General Electric (GE) and Power Construction was overly costly. He suggested that a smaller plant might be a more acceptable alternative.

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