White water rafting on the Zambezi under threat from power station

White water rafting on the Zambezi under threat from power station

VICTORIA FALLS, October 24 (The Source) - Zimbabwe's $4 million dollar white water rafting industry will come under threat from the construction of the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electricity Power, which will close large sections of the Zambezi River that are used for the popular tourist activity.

The work on the 1,600MW power project being developed jointly with Zambia at a cost of $3 billion is expected to start next year, but tour operators are panicking about the impact it will have on their operations.

Rafting is done from rapid one to 24 from under the Victoria Falls Bridge to the gorges close to Gorges Lodge, 34 kilometres from the Falls. The Batoka Dam would be built 54km downstream but the back flow of the water will wipe out the rapids.

"If the power project goes ahead, it would indeed drown rafting," said one tour operator who requested anonymity.

A technician with the Zambezi River Authority which administers the Zambezi River, Samuel Mwale, said while white water rafting below the Victoria Falls will be eradicated by the dam construction, other forms of sport tourism such as boat cruising and surfing will become possible.

“The dam will not affect everyone because all the water will be confined in the Gorge and other possibilities open up," he said, adding that the dam would encourage construction of lodges and hotels in the vicinity.

The Zambezi River Rafting Association said the industry employs about 400 on the Zimbabwean side and 300 on the Zambian side. Rafting is done when the Zambezi River is at its low level, generally between July and mid-February and earns about $4 million annually.

On the Zimbabwean side, companies such as Shearwater Adventures, Shockwave Rafting, Khanondo Safaris and Falcon Safaris offer rafting to thousands of tourists each year.

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