Africa’s ever-growing need for electricity has already resulted in the construction of two major hydro-electric dams on the Zambezi River – at Kariba and Cabora Bassa. Plans to construct more dams to supply hydro-electricity to the region have been on the drawing board for some time, but they are all controversial and have met with strong opposition from environmental lobby groups, including the Zambezi Society. Indeed the Society was originally formed in 1982 as a lobby group successfully opposing the construction of a proposed dam on the Zambezi River at Mupata Gorge, which would have flooded much of what is now the Mana Pools/Sapi/Chewore World Heritage Site. An alternative site in the Batoka Gorge is still being debated. However, the latest and most advanced of these schemes is the Mpanda Nkua dam in Mozambique, the site of which lies in the Lupata Gorge, 60 kms. downstream of Cabora Bassa.

Inputs into World Commission on Dams

With particular reference to Kariba, Cabora Bassa and future Zambezi dams, The Zambezi Society contributed to consultations held by the World Commission on Dams in compiling its report Dams and Development: a new framework for decision-making, published in November 2000. This publication addressed the impacts of large dam projects worldwide and is widely acknowledged as a significant contribution to the debate on dams, recommending that decisions on major infrastructure developments take place within a framework that recognizes the rights of all stakeholders. The Society continues to make inputs into the process as a member of IUCN’s Task Force on Dams.

In the meantime, the Society continues to lobby for proper evaluation of other energy supply options e.g. better demand-side management (energy-conservation), investment in alternative energy generation and regional power-sharing, and for the development of a soundly-based energy policy for the region.