Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam

Save the Zambezi – Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam

Urgent effort is required to stop the Batoka Gorge dam on the Zambezi river. This world renowned stretch of river is planned to be dammed for the purported benefits of hydro-electric production. The International Rafting Federation is vehemently opposed to the construction of the Batoka Gorge dam. Our objections to the dam have been lodged and include reasoning based on the recorded negative impacts following construction of other dams in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes negative impacts to communities, eco-systems and biodiversity. The time to act to stop the Batoka Gorge dam is now.

Flowing easterly through six countries, the fourth longest river in Africa, the Zambezi river forms a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia for c. 500kms. The most noted feature of this stretch is Victoria Falls – the uppermost section of the gorge would be dammed if the proposals proceed. The following 47kms of river including the biggest named rapids would disappear into the depths of the man made lake.

Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam
The Zambezi is a popular river for raft guide training and tourist rafting operations. Photo: Star Trek rapid by Andrew Kellett

The loss of this stretch of river will impact thousands of people. It will be a major loss to those who use the river for personal and business pursuits. It will also very negatively impact all those whose livelihoods are based on and around the tourist, commercial and agricultural activities in the area. No tourists coming to raft the mighty Zambezi means a greatly reduced tourism market. This will impact local producers from small farming, to retail, to hospitality and all the additional activities that tourists add to their trips to the region.

The Batoka Gorge section of the Zambezi delta is home to many varied eco-systems and supports one of the most important wilderness areas in Africa. The Batoka Gorge itself is listed as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International on the basis of its conservation importance. The taita falcon, a small, agile and endangered species breeds here, as do many other rare birds of prey, such as Verraux’s eagle (previously know as the black eagle), lanner and peregrine falcon.

It is thought that the narrow deep-water nature of the resulting lake will not sustain large fish populations, as has happened with the wide and shallow Lake Kariba. Further, the local mains electricity network is also unlikely to be developed, and it is thought many rural communities will continue to be isolated from the national electrical supply.

The Zambezi river is held in great reverence by the IRF. Our formative years were based racing and developing guiding standards on this majestic stretch of whitewater. Four Camel White Water Challenges (CWWC), the precursors to the IRF World Rafting Championships, were held on the Zambezi in the mid to late 1990s and 2001. These events brought together rafters from around to globe to test out their skills and race the world’s best on these formidable rapids.

The loss of this stretch of the Zambezi would a great loss to the history of rafting. We implore all our #RiverFamily to object to the construction of the Batoka Gorge dam. Please see and use the links below to lodge your objection. We need to save the Zambezi. Stop the Batoka Gorge dam now!

Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam
If the dam proceeds, kilometres of world renowned Grade III-V rapids will be lost

What’s happened so far?

The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), a joint body representing Zambia and Zimbabwe, is currently pressing ahead with the feasibility studies for the environmental and social impact of the Batoka Gorge project and has applied for up to US$5 billion of World Bank funding for the project.

Webinars took place on 02 December 2020 for updates on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to date. Several stakeholders were able to attend but due to the coronavirus pandemic most interaction has been online. Given the underdevelopment of the local communities it is fair to say that the engagement with local communities has been severely impacted by coronavirus restrictions.

Proposals have been taunted that the maximum height of the dam will be capped well below the gorge walls thus potentially saving some parts of the Batoka Gorge section. However, as usual with these projects, this is just a possibility rather than an actuality that has been proposed. The Isimba Dam project on the Nile River in Uganda was touted as having similar effects but, as has now been proven with the build, the actual impacts of these proposals for lower dam heights still have extremely damaging effects to the local biodiversity and ecosystems in addition to the local and tourist communities.

Now is the time to act to stop the Batoka Gorge dam and save the Zambezi river.

Where to find out more:

Read the IRF’s initial request for action here: Save the Zambezi – Batoka Gorge threatened by huge dam

Watch the webinars run by the ZRA to disclose their findings to date of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the Batoka Gorge Dam project. Recordings of the webinars are now available on their website:

Each webinar recording includes the presentation describing the ESIA process, project description, key findings and next steps. These are followed by a question and answer session.  Note that the webinar from 02 December 2020 contains the most comprehensive presentation.

The draft ESIAs are still available for public comment. The comment period will be closing 25 January 2021. Refer to Project website to access the ESIAs, non-technical summaries and webinar recordings.

In order to stop the Batoka Gorge dam, all comments on the draft ESIAs should be submitted via:

  • Postnet Suite 90, Private Bag X12, Tokai, 7966, South Africa
  • Tel: +27 21 681 5400 (South Africa) or +27 11 798 4300 (South Africa) or +263 77 287 6616 (Zimbabwe) or +260 97 4074384 (Zambia)

Stop the Batoka Gorge Dam

How you can help stop the Batoka Gorge Dam:

We call upon all national members, river lovers and #RiverFamily from around the world to come together to stop the Batoka Gorge dam from being constructed. The below list are some of the actions you can take now:

  • Lodge a formal objection to the project before 25 January 2021
  • Support local companies and organisations in their objection to the dam
  • Support Save the Zambezi – Stop the Bakota Gorge Dam
  • Use hashtags to share the message: #SaveTheZambezi #StopTheBatokaGorgeDam



#EcoRafting #SaveTourism #SaveTheZambezi #StopTheBatokaGorgeDam #StrongerTogether