TALKS OF REVIVING THE EPUPA hydro power scheme at Epupa in the Kunene region, Namibia, has raised the ire of the opposition parties and environmental groups.
During the 1990s the controversial scheme on the Kunene river, bordering Namibia and Angola, appeared to have been put on the back burner, as Angola shifted priorities for development to dams inside Angola. However, Namibia’s foreign affairs minister Hidipo Hamutenya has recently discussed the possibility of accelerating construction of Epupa.
Two possible project sites with 200 to 350MW of power potential have been investigated in previous studies. Namibia has favoured the Epupa Falls site while Angola has preferred the Baynes site, with a lower power potential. A US$7M feasibility report by Norweigian and Swedish consultants however stated that the more environmentally problematic Epupa Falls dam site would be the more profitable one.
One of the main problems with the Epupa Falls site was that the dam affected Himba people, a pastoral tribe of about 1000 people living in northern Koakoland. The scheme would inundate 250km2 of area vital to the sustainability of the Himba’s pastoral lifestyle.
Namibia currently produces only 25% of its electrical energy needs and relies on imports from South Africa. Since South Africa’s installed capacity is projected to reach its limits by 2007, there appears to be some need for Namibia to develop its own local resources.