Delegates from the eight riparian states in the Zambezi River Basin wrestled late last month with the need for integrated water resources management to govern effective and affordable basin development, including hydropower.
More than 100 stakeholders and water experts from Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe met November 22-23 in Windhoek. They were joined by interested parties from across southern Africa and beyond for the 2006 Zambezi Basin Stakeholders Conference.
The gathering was organized by the Zambezi Action Plan Project 6, Phase 2 (ZACPRO 6.2), an initiative of the Southern African Development Community. ZACPRO’s overall objective is to improve integrated water resources management (IWRM) to facilitate social and economic development, and protection against floods, droughts, water resources pollution, and environmental degradation in the basin.
An immediate project objective is to assist and facilitate riparian state efforts to create an enabling institutional environment to achieve the overall IWRM objective. A critical step is the formation of the Zambezi River Basin Commission (ZAMCOM) to unify the current numerous and sometimes conflicting agencies involved in individual areas of basin management.
Although the eight riparian countries signed an agreement more than ten years ago to establish ZAMCOM, only four have ratified the pact. A ZACPRO statement said financial and human resources of the basin are limited and need a guiding hand such as ZAMCOM to distribute them effectively.
�It therefore follows that if we are not clear where we apply them, we will neither be effective nor efficient in the implementation of water management and development programs to improve the livelihoods of communities in the basin,� the statement said.
Report: Stalled ZAMCOM agreement hinders hydro development
As illustration of the problem, a report on the conference by the Inter Press Service News Agency said discussions revealed that 70 percent of the Zambezi River’s hydropower potential remains untapped because stakeholder countries have failed to ratify the agreement as a first step toward developing that potential.
The keynote speaker, Principal Secretary Grain Malunga of Malawi’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development, said IWRM, coupled with increased stakeholder involvement, is necessary.
�The fact is that water is already an integrated resource, whether we choose to acknowledge it in our governance structures or not,� Malunga said.
Malawi promotes dams on six rivers
The secretary said the �water gap� of 1.1 billion people lacking access to improved water supply requires investment in improved management of existing resources and construction of new water infrastructure, including hydropower projects.
�I and my colleagues in Malawi are compelled to go with the multi-purpose dam construction on six of our major rivers,� Malunga said, listing the Songwe, North Rukuru, Kasitu, Bua, Shire, and Ruo rivers. �The president of Malawi has taken the leadership in promoting the development of these dams.
�Why? He realizes that the solution to Malawi and the region is IWRM and he is convinced that these dams will help bring up hydropower capacity to nearly 450 MW, will mitigate against floods to our neighbors downstream including Tanzania and Mozambique, they will promote irrigation farming, provide safe drinking water, and indeed promote fisheries and tourism,� Malunga said.
The Malawi official cited both developed and potential hydropower prospects in the Zambezi Basin. Among the hydro projects in the basin are 64-MW Kapichira in Malawi (HNN 11/27/06); 2,040-MW Cahora Bassa, 1,200-MW Cahora Bassa North, and 1,300-MW Mphanda Nkuwa in Mozambique (HNN 11/24/06); 620-MW Kariba South in Zimbabwe (HNN 8/9/06); and 750-MW Kafue Gorge Lower and 120-MW Itezhi-Tezhi in Zambia. (HNN 2/27/06)