Construction of a dam to facilitate the setting up of Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power stations for Zambia and Zimbabwe is expected to start next year after the new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and social impact assessments are concluded.
The estimated cost for the 1, 600 Megawatts (MW) power projects is between US$ 2.5 billion and US$ 3 billion.
Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power stations would be located about 54 kilometres downstream from Victoria Falls extending across the international boundary of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There will be an 800 MW power plant on the Zambian side and another 800 MW on the Zimbabwean side at Batoka Gorge.
Zambezi River Authority Public Relations and Communications manager Elizabeth Karonga said the desire of the two countries was to put up a dam and kick-start the power projects by next year after the new EIA and social impact assessments were concluded.
The Authority is currently evaluating the bids which were submitted after February 2012 when the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe approved and signed the power agreement project.
Ms Karonga was speaking on Tuesday in Zimbabwe during a media tour of the Batoka Gorge site on the Zimbabwean site.
“Previous EIAs were done in 1993 but these studies have been updated and we are still evaluating the new bidders. Preliminary assessments have been done to facilitate the actual construction of a Dam for Batoka Gorge power stations,” she said.
So far, access roads to the Zimbabwean side and Zambian side of the Gorge have been upgraded.
“We are happy to note that there will be no need for resettling people like the case was during the construction of Kariba Dam. All the previous EIAs done so far are favourable as there will be very little disturbances to surrounding communities,” she said.
Zambezi River Authority hydrology technician Samuel Mwale said the Batoka Dam would be about 181 metres high which is higher than Kariba Dam although it would be smaller in size compared Kariba.
Mr Mwale said the 1600 MW of power to be generated would alleviate the power shortages being experienced in Zambia and Zimbabwe.
On benefits to surrounding community, Mr Mwale said the access roads would improve transportation in the area while nearby schools would be supported.