News Alert: Land and water defenders are opposing the creation of a dam across the Zambezi River. They are requesting support to highlight concerns. We encourage you to comment on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) before it closes on January 25th. The Zambezi River Authority needs to capture grievances for their Responses Report for the ESIA. 

You can access the ESIA here and leave your comments on this email address.

The Environmental Resources Management (ERM) is in receipt of a report from a stakeholder. They have collated feedback from other stakeholders living in the Project Area of Influence in Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Reports from community members living in the Project Area of Influence, have noted, that people are nervous to speak out against the BGHES Project, or even raise concerns and ask questions.

There is a strong feeling that in Zambia, largely due to historical context, that people cannot speak out against what the government is saying or doing for fear of retribution. Such retribution may be subtle or non-violent, such as having your livelihood taken away, rather than open threats/ acts of violence.

Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES)

The proposed BGHES Project is seen as government driven and, therefore, people are not willing to question it. There is not a culture of speaking out against government, as such, people who may be opposed to the BGHES might not voice their opinion for fear of the consequences.

It has been reported that there have been threats of violence against people living in the Project Area of Influence who have opposed or questioned the BGHES Project.

There is no written documentation to ‘evidence’ or support this claim, however, it was noted that if people wanted to report threats, they do not know who they can report to. Local police, and even local traditional and government leadership, are not necessarily trusted to act on such information, and are typically seen as part of a government structure seeking to suppress opposition.

It was also noted that the ESIA report states that there are no migratory fish species that would be affected by the construction of the dam. However, stakeholders disagree with this statement, noting that there are in fact migratory fish species that would be impacted detrimentally by the presence of a dam. The stakeholder has, therefore, questioned whether the specialist report was rushed or perhaps written under instruction/coercion. Put simply, it is likely the environmental impacts have not been made clear. We suspect the author was paid to minimize the harm we know to be likely as a result of this project.

Your support is needed now.

We understand from the that…

“the review and comment period for the draft ESIAs will remain open until such time that the Authority and ERM are able to hold the ESIA disclosure meetings, or until further notice is given by the Authority and ERM. Your input remains key in the updating and finalization of the ESIA studies and stakeholders are encouraged to continue reviewing the draft ESIAs and to submit questions and comments to ERM:

Stakeholders can access the draft ESIA reports and Non-Technical Summaries (NTSs) through the project website, and at the public locations previously communicated.”

Featured image: Brian McMorrow, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

For more on the issue, read this article and listen to this podcast interview.