Unesco denied that it cleared Zimbabwe and Zambia to proceed with the construction of a $5 billion hydropower dam downstream from the Victoria Falls, which it has designated as a World Heritage Site.
(Bloomberg) — Unesco denied that it cleared Zimbabwe and Zambia to proceed with the construction of a $5 billion hydropower dam downstream from the Victoria Falls, which it has designated as a World Heritage Site.
Munyaradzi Munodawafa, chief executive officer of the Zambezi River Authority, said in an earlier interview that Unesco’s World Heritage Committee “agreed that Batoka could go ahead,” referring to the planned dam and 2,400-megawatt power plant on the Zambezi River. Munodawafa didn’t answer calls or text messages to his mobile phone.
“The decision taken by the committee raises several concerns regarding the site, including the inevitable negative impacts of the Batoka Gorge” project, Unesco said in a response to queries.
The full text of the decision and a report made after inspectors visited the site last year requests that the environmental and social impact assessment of the planned dam be revised. The February 2022 report said four of eight gorges within the site would be flooded and the project “should not proceed as currently proposed.” The report still stands, Unesco said.
Construction of the 181-meter (594-foot) high wall and power plants by a group led by General Electric Co., and China’s Power Construction Corp. had been expected to start in 2020 but was delayed by the global pandemic and funding concerns. Zambia and Zimbabwe, who already share the Kariba hydropower facility further east on the Zambezi, struggle to meet their power needs.
The committee called for the height of the proposed dam wall to be reduced and decried the building of a new hotel within the site despite its request that construction be suspended.
A revised study on the planned dam should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the International Union for Conservation of Nature before a decision is taken, the committee said in a June document.
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