Negative Social Media Publicity Vexes Batoka Gorge Electricity Custodians

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

THE successful roll-out of the long-awaited 2 400 megawatt Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electricity project is under threat amid claims of a a sustained social media blitz to disrupt it.

Online campaigns by concerned stakeholders opposed to the implementation of the proposed power scheme have allegedly gone into overdrive.

This has triggered panic among custodians of the US$4, 5 billion project who have taken a defensive approach.

The project located along the majestic Zambezi river, will see the setting up of a power station 54 kilometres downstream of Victoria Falls straddling the international border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Zambezi River Authority chief executive officer, Munyaradzi Munodawafa said his organisation was rattled by the negative publicity directed at the project by some individuals.

“The Zambezi River Authority has observed with great concern online public campaigns by some stakeholders meant to frustrate efforts leading to the sustainable implementation of the multi-billion-dollar 2400MW hydro-power project which seeks to address the adverse power challenges affecting the people and economic activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia and SADC region as a whole,” he said in a statement Monday.

Both tourism operators and local villagers are resisting implementation of the project arguing construction of the dam and power station would negatively impact economic activities and people’s livelihoods in the area.

They argue Whitewater rafting, Zambia’s third largest foreign currency earner, which employs thousands of local people directly and indirectly, would suffer.

Besides destroying the tourism industry, the local rural community is concerned that they would not benefit from the electricity which will be generated as it would be exported to the Southern African Power Pool.

They also raise environmental issues, among others.

In the recent past, ZRA’s consultants, Environmental Resources Management (ERM) carried out an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project after which findings were availed to stakeholders.

The disclosure process is a statutory requirement in the two countries and is administered by the respective environmental regulators namely, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) of Zimbabwe and Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA).

ZRA is a bi-national body tasked by the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia to sustainably harness the hydro-power potential offered by the waters of the mighty Zambezi river for socio-economic and industrial development of the two nations.