Minister Confirms Projected Hydro Plant
Mines and Energy minister Mr. Jesaya Nyamu has announced a new power project for the Western Caprivi region to the tune of US$ 300 million. It is to provide 20 to 30 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the area.
The minister visited Bagani and Divundu last weekend to inform the local residents about the new project at a public meeting. About 1.4 square kilometers will be inundated by the hydropower plant, and 75 huts, 15 houses and four campsites will be flooded. The estimated evaporation will be about 1.5 million cubic meters and will have "a minor impact" on the flow into the Kavango swamps in Botswana, according to a resource study.
"The project is still in its infancy and we have not yet decided the go ahead," Minister Nyamu told this reporter. According to him, NamPower was to start a pre-feasibility study and discussions with Botswana and Angola which share the Kavango river, have to be held.
"We will also need safekeeping negotiations with our Angolan neighbours," the minister said when asked about the possible security risk in the Divundu area, due to the unstable situation since December 1999. He emphasized that the Popa Falls area would not be affected by the project.
The new plant, part of a draft resource study competed in November 1999 by the Norwegian Agency Norad, will cost about 300 million dollars and will be located in close proximity to the scenic Popa Falls. Opposite the falls is the government tourism camp and also the privately owned Suclabo Lodge. Adjacent to the lodge is the area of a private hunting concessionaire. Virtually next to the falls on he northern bank of the river is White sands hunting camp still held by Anvo Safaris, which has a magnificent view over the Popa Falls. Next to it is the community campsite of the Kxoe people, or Barakwenas, for which this camp has been a major source of income before the border unrests began nine months ago.
"The site of the Popa Falls is a sensitive are due to tourism and they are not to be touched." Mr. Imke Hoogenhout, NamPower senior general manager for business ventures and special projects, told this reporter. According to him, Cabinet approved a submission by the Ministry of Mines and Energy earlier this year to mandate NamPower to undertake the pre-feasibility study.
"We are busy writing the terms of reference for this study. I envisage a time span of about three to four years before the construction phase can begin," he said. According to Mr. Paulinus Shilamba, director of energy at the Mines and Energy Ministry, additional power supply as well as the connection of the Caprivi Strip to the rest of the Namibian electricity grid was becoming a major issue.
"There is an existing 33kV power line, which is becoming heavily loaded. We import all the power supply for the (eastern) Caprivi region from Zambia at a high price, almost double than that of South Africa, and we must pay in US dollars," he said in an interview on Wednesday. He outlined that Norad undertook a resource study between May and November 1999 for his ministry on possible hydropower sites on the Kunene, Kavango and Orange rivers on which 12, one and three sites were located respectively.
"We will discuss our envisaged power project next month at the meeting of OKACOM, which is the permanent Kavango River Basin Commission, of which Angola, Botswana and Namibia are members," he explained. According to the resource study of Norad, two project alternatives could be used on the Kavango River at Divundu: Alternative A would envisage that a weir about 2 kilometers upstream of the Popa Falls could be built, which is to be six meters high and 930 meters long. Due to this about 1.4 square kilometers will be permanently inundated. This will create a reservoir about four kilometers long with a surface area roughly three square kilometers.
A headrace tunnel or canal will be constructed on sate A two kilometers long from the weir to the turbine at the power station downstream from the falls. This will be built through beautiful and untouched sub-tropical forest, as well as a new access road due north from the weir to the main tarred road. A new transmission line will be built from the power station to the 33kV powerline to feed the grid. From the turbine a 500 meter long tailrace is to be constructed. Alternative B (or site B) is planned to have the weir constructed right on the scenic Popa Falls with a wall six meters high and 2150 meters long. The created reservoir will inundate 2.1 kilometers of land including the community camp site of the Barakwena. The turbine and the power station will be constructed right at the weir wall. A tailrace canal of 500 meters in length is also planned.
A full feasibility study will have to look at the impact of this project on the environment, since hippos and elephants frequent the area. There are hippo living permanently on some of the islands close to the falls. Some came to live there about only a year ago, to the delight of tourists.
The area is part of the Caprivi Game Park which is to be proclaimed as the Bwabwata Park by the Ministry of Tourism. Plans have already been drawn up for this.
Compensation payments for locals for loss of living area and crop fields are estimated to be eight to nine million dollars, according to the resource report. The chapter on 12 possible hydropower projects on the Kunene River reveals that apart from the Epupa and Baynes sites, other scenic spots like Meha, 15 kilometers off the Kunene River mouth, Hombolo and a site near the Hartmenn Valley are recommended as well as a spot near Marienfloss Valley in very close proximity to an existing tourist camp. However, the costs appear to be very high. The estimates for the site at Marienfluss are as high as 2.2 billion Namibian dollars.