State to relocate villagers for Batoka power project

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HUNDREDS of villagers living along the Zambezi River banks are likely to be displaced soon to pave way for the Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (BGHES) being initiated by Zambia and Zimbabwe.

BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI

This was revealed by Zambezi River Authority chief executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa during a tour of the project site on Wednesday.

Villagers who are most likely to be affected are from Victoria Falls, Hwange, Kamativi, Gokwe and Kwekwe, a 500km stretch.

“With that being the issue and in terms of land in Zimbabwe, we are not certain how much land we will be allocated, but we are going to have a major challenge. As you know that when you are developing a huge project the law says it should be 40km away from settlements. But now when we are envisaged to start our project there are villages that are 2km away, which means that if we are going to follow the 40km provisions, there is going to be massive removal of the villages to new settlements in both countries,” he said.

“Those affected are those living near our transmission lines. For instance, in Victoria Falls it will be people from Jambezi.”

Munodawafa said the environmental impact assessments were underway and that villagers will be compensated through provision of decent homes and grazing lands.

“What is going to happen to those villagers is we look at what each individual has. There is a threshold — the minimum for compensation, like if you almost have nothing we give you a three-roomed house with few amenities there, but if someone has put investment in it, we will put more or less equivalent to that. We need to conclude our feasibility study for the transmission lines and when it comes out it has to be done before the end of year.”

Situated 54km from Chidobe turn-off in Victoria Falls, the dam wall will be 181 metres long to allow water rafting activities to continue in the low flow season.

The project, commencing in the last quarter of next year and funded by the African Development Bank Fund, will see twin power stations built on either side of the Zambezi River, with all-weather access roads, residential housing and social amenities.

The expected annual energy production is 10,215 gigawatts.