Bids for construction of a proposed hydropower station on the Orange River on the farm Riemvasmaak north of the Augrabies Falls are due to be submitted by October this year.
HydroSA said if its bid was successful, construction would begin in August 2016 and take 36 months. The hydropower station will extract water 1.5km upstream of the Augrabies Falls, returning the water 7.5km downstream of the Falls. This will generate up to 40MW of electricity. The powerhouse and tailrace would be located on land belonging to the Riemvasmaak Community Trust in the Augrabies Park, and a 2.5m-long weir across the Orange River and 4.6km-long underground culvert would be located on South African National Parks (SANParks) land.
Environmental and tourism concerns
SANParks has expressed its concern over the R1 billion (US$79 million) Augrabies scheme’s effect on tourism caused by the visual impact of the station as well as on visitors’ experience of the 60m falls, the world’s fifth highest.
SANParks has also expressed concerns over the negative environmental effect on the Augrabies Falls, as a ‘sizeable’ portion of the river would be used. “A minimum reserve flow is required to maintain ecosystem integrity, especially as the choice of the availability of electricity to consumers is likely to supersede the volume of water flowing towards the Falls because the provision of electricity will be regarded as a priority,” said Nadia Lemmetuis, Regional Communication Manager for SANParks.
The area through which the canal is planned is a ‘highly protected zone’ and categorised as a special management area.