BY CALVIN MANIKA
Hwange thermal power expansion project run by the Hwange Electricity Supply Company (Hesco) is expected to be complete by 2022, eight months behind the initial plan prior to the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A power transmission line corridor is currently being cleared from Hwange to Insukamini, Bulawayo.
Hesco is a special purpose company, which is a joint venture of the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and Sino Hydro Mauritius with 64% and 36% shares respectively.
The US$1,5 billion power project will entail displacements of about 480 households of which 400 will be from the Ingagula suburb in Hwange due to the direct health hazards of gas emissions and dust from the plant, The Citizen Bulletin has learnt.
A further 80 homesteads along the power transmission line route will be affected and relocated for safety reasons.
About USD$60 million compensation is being dangled to the affected.
ZPC, a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings owns the Ingagula Township in Hwange, a residential area for its workforce.
The suburb is adjacent to the power plant, which has made it to be a target of removal as the expansion project is affecting the residents, especially the emission of gases and dust from the expansion site.
An Environmental Impact Assessment report on Hwange by the Centre for Natural Resources Governance noted that Hwange atmospheric air has been affected by the emissions from the ZPC furnaces.
“The burning of coal by ZPC emits pollutants,” says the EIA report.
“These pollutants include particulate matter and ground-level ozone, the key ingredients of smog such as carbon monoxide.
“As such the air in Hwange is heavily polluted and the emission comprises mainly of fugitive dust and gases which are hazardous to human health.”
The Citizen Bulletin established that Ingagula Township will be relocated to an area under Hwange Local Board (HLB) jurisdiction.
The project manager Forbes Chanakira recently told a media briefing that they have already secured land for Ingagula residents.
“ZPC has already secured land from HLB for the relocation of the people to pave way for expansion of Hwange Power Station,” said Chanakira.
HLB engineer Philip Mguni says the 39 454 square metres of virgin land would accommodate ZPC workers, who are currently residing at Ingagula residential area.
“The construction of the houses should be done by October,” Mguni said.
“According to ZPC, the first unit of the expansion project should be up by October this year meaning those houses should be built by then.”
Though the ZPC Health department could not be reached for comment in respect of the statistics on respiratory diseases, many Ingagula residents say dust is affecting them and they are fearful for their health.
Residents, who spoke to this publication expressed the desire to move but are not optimistic regarding the ability of Hesco to relocate them in time, ahead of the project’s completion.
“It is a noble idea to relocate us from this dusty area,” said Thomas Shoko, a resident.
“But, Ingagula besides residential stands has schools that include Ingagula primary, Gabhuza High and Ingagula clinic.
“The relocation is costly. We may suffer longer than expected.”
In early June during a working visit to ZPC Hwange Station, Matabeleland North Resident minister Richard Moyo promised to approach the central government with the plea for a speedy relocation process.
“I will take the issue to my colleague, Professor Mthuli Ncube, the Minister of Finance so that the project will be complete within its timeframe,” Moyo told delegates.
Chanakira also said compensation for the affected residents will be done.
“We have engaged them (villagers),” he said. “Our contractors will be on the ground constructing new houses for them.
“After completion, they will move to the new place and we demolish those houses.
“We will compensate them for the developments made at their homesteads.”
The targeted homesteads for relocations are those constructed within 60 metres of the power transmission line planned path.
Some of the places which are likely to be affected are Chezhou in Dete, Gwayi Siding at the border of Lupane and Sipepa, about six homesteads in Tsholotsho and others in the Umguza area.
Oscar Ncube, one of the villagers whose area will be affected in Dete said if the company was honest, people will accept the relocation.
“We don’t want to lose our villages, so if we are just moved a bit, but within the area with full compensation, there is no problem,” Ncube said.
“Even those with their relatives’ grave, if it is within the area it will be all right.”
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.