Maputo — The proposed new dam at Mphanda Nkuwa, on the Zambezi river, 60 kilometres downstream from the existing dam at Cahora Bassa, in the western Mozambican province of Tete, could start generating electricity in 2030, according to the official government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Filimao Suaze.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, after the weekly meeting of the Council of Minsters (Cabinet), Suaze said building the new dam will cost about four billion US dollars. It will produce 1,500 megawatts of power, and much of that electricity will be sent southwards on a 1,600 kilometre transmission line from Tete to Maputo.
"It is expected that 2030 will see the effective take-off of this project", declared Suaze. He expected construction to take six years.
There is nothing new about the idea to build a dam at Mphanda Nkuwa. The project has been on the table for decades, but was relaunched in August 2018, by President Filipe Nyusi, who announced that the public electricity company EDM, and the company that operates the Cahora Bassa dam, HCB, will be in charge of reviving the initiative.
The problem remains finding a definitive buyer for the power generated at Mphanda Nkuwa. The obvious buyer is the South African electricity company, Eskom, which already purchases the bulk of the power generated at Cahora Bassa. But so far Eskom has not committed to buying more hydropower from Mozambique, despite the rolling blackouts (known euphemistically as "load shedding") that it imposes on South African consumers.
The Council of Ministers discussed the development of other water resource storage and management projects, among which Suaze stressed the dam at Mapai, in the southern province of Gaza, regarded as crucial for controlling flooding in the Limpopo Valley.
Suaze was confident that this dam will be built by 2025. He said the selection of a contractor is under way, following the rules of the law on public-private partnerships. Construction of this dam is budgeted at one billion dollars. The reservoir behind the dam will store six billion cubic metres of water. A power station at this dam will generate 75 megawatts, and it will also enable the irrigation of 250,000 hectares of land in this semi-arid part of the country.
Further south is the projected Moamba-Major dam, on the Incomati river, the first stone for which was laid in 2014. The work was interrupted due to a cut in the financing by the Brazilian National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), following corruption scandals in Brazil involving the construction company Andrade Gutierrez.
About 700 million dollars is needed for this dam, and Suaze said that negotiations are under way with the Exim Bank of China to secure the funds.
The dam will have the capacity to store 760 million cubic metres of water, to be partly used for irrigation in the river valley and partly for drinking water, including for the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Area. It will also generate 15 megawatts of electricity.