Friday, April 27, 2007

Zambia Sugar, Zesco in talks over Nakambala expansion

Zambia Sugar, Zesco in talks over Nakambala expansion
By Joan Chirwa and Florence Bupe
Tuesday April 24, 2007 [09:41]

ZAMBIA Sugar Plc has engaged into discussions with ZESCO Limited over the use of water in Kafue River for its Nakambala expansion project. But an energy expert has called for the re-evaluation of the reported impact that increased water abstraction for irrigation purposes from the Kafue River will have on power generation.

In an interview in Mazabuka, Zambia Sugar corporate affairs manager Lovemore Sievu has disclosed that his company would continue discussing with ZESCO Limited, considering that the interests of the two companies were neither divergent nor conflicting.
ZESCO Limited managing director Rhodnie Sisala last month wrote a letter to the board secretary of the Water Development Board copied to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Energy and Water Development.

Sisala raised his concerns over the Zambia Sugar expansion project, indicating that the K840 billion scheme risked jeopardizing the operation of the Kafue Gorge power station including plans to develop the Kafue Gorge Lower and the Itezhi-tezhi power stations.

But Sievu told The Business Post that Zambia Sugar had received approval by the Water Board for water rights in the Kafue River. “The Water Board approved our application for water rights in the Kafue River,” Sievu said. “Zambia Sugar Plc recognizes the strategic importance of ZESCO Limited to the country. And to that effect, Zambia Sugar is dialoguing with ZESCO Limited to see how we can co-operate and work well in the future.”

Sievu said Zambia Sugar, during the time of expansion, would increase its own generation of power. “The increase in power generation by Zambia Sugar will enable ZESCO Limited to meet electricity demand for other people. Zambia Sugar is a large consumer of electricity in the Southern Province and when it starts generating most of the power on its own, more people will have access to electricity,” Sievu said.

“We are actually complementing what ZESCO limited is doing in terms of electricity generation on one hand while relying on them on the other hand. We will continue to discuss with ZESCO limited as we are both interested in having electricity supplied to all the consumers in the country.”

Sisala, in his letter, expressed fears of adverse effects on ZESCO’s current and future operations if the proposed expansion in water abstraction by Zambia Sugar was allowed. The government recently granted Zambia Sugar permission for its expansion project after extensive deliberations with the Water Development Board and ZESCO Limited.

Sisala further indicated that a large-scale increase in the extraction of water from the Kafue River would have an adverse effect on ZESCO and other users of electricity due to a drastic reduction in the volumes of water.

The Zambia Sugar expansion project will involve upgrading of the existing factory, construction of roads and canals as well as the planting of sugar cane on over 10,000 hectare of additional land. This is projected to increase the company’s annual production from the current 246,000 metric tonnes to 440,000 metric tones by 2010, making it the second largest producer of Sugar after Sudan.

Meanwhile, energy expert Charles Haanyika has called for the re-evaluation of the reported impact that increased water abstraction for irrigation purposes from the Kafue River will have on power generation.

Reacting to the decision by the Water Development Board to grant additional water rights to Zambia Sugar Plc for purposes of irrigation to facilitate the company’s expansion programme, Haanyika said increased abstraction of water from the Kafue River, which is Zambia’s main source of power, might impact negatively on power generation capacity.

Haanyika noted that the project had raised a lot of controversy that needed serious and urgent attention, as all stakeholders would be affected. “This project is a very complex issue, and the decision by the water board to ignore ZESCO’s concerns may have serious repercussions even on Zambia Sugar itself because they also need energy,” Haanyika said. “The fact that they (Zambia Sugar) are expanding their cultivation hecterage and production means need will arise for more power. Therefore, there is need for all the parties involved to carry out a detailed evaluation of the situation and reach a compromise that will not disadvantage any stakeholder.”

Haanyika said the Water Development Board should have taken into account the concerns raised by the ZESCO Limited and come up with ways of balancing their decision. “ZESCO’s concerns are justified because the country’s demand for power is ever increasing, but the volumes of water are not. We need as a country to be very careful with the use of this finite commodity, especially in light of the looming power shortage in the region,” he said.

Haanyika also explained that increased abstraction of water from the Kafue River could lead to higher soil erosion, and this could ultimately have adverse effects on agricultural activities in the surrounding areas.

However, Haanyika pointed out that Zambia Sugar Plc’s expansion programme would be beneficial to Zambia’s economic growth if required measures were well handled. “It is obvious that once Zambia Sugar expands its production capacity, the country will be bale to export more and this will greatly benefit the country in terms of revenue,” Haanyika said. “However, relevant authorities and stakeholders need to ensure that concerns are carefully studied and measures put in place to avoid well- intended projects from working against certain players, and the nation as a whole.”

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2 Comments:

At 1:05 AM , Blogger Yakima said...

Hi MrK,

I must confess a great deal of ignorance as to the specifics of the situation surrounding sugar production in Zambia. Perhaps you can clear up some of the questions I have?

Is this particular Zambia Sugar expansion related to the land dispute described in this article: http://www.panos.org.uk/newsfeatures/featuredetails.asp?id=1241 ? If so, what if any provisions for relocation of the hundred or so displaced families was made?

Granted the official comment period for this project ended on 21 Jan 2007, the Environmental Impact Statement, available @ http://www.necz.org.zm/news/comments/nakambala-estates-expansion.html does provide some useful information, but leaves other questions unanswered. For example, section 5.1.2 indicates that the project expects to require a water supply of 2,332,800 cubic meters per month, or approx. 900 liters per second, of which 2/3 (1,555,200 cubic meters per month, 600 liters per second) is described as effluent discharge. To quote directly from the report:

"Data obtained from the Zambia Sugar Plc Laboratory on the water usage indicate that there is an excess amount of water supply which is discharged as effluent. Large quantities of this wastewater are discharged to the river through small streams. If this water could be kept from entering the streams through recycling, it would prevent the pollution of the streams and at the same time save the compant the cost of pumping water. This illustrates the concept of Cleaner Production, where the benefits of protecting the environment also result in profits for a company and thus a win-win situation is attained."

While it may illustrate the concept, the sentence construction of "if, could, would" indicates that it is not currently common practice for Zambia Sugar to do so (Annex 3 of the same report bears this out), nor is its implementation in any way a requirement for implementation of the project.

I find other items in the EIS puzzling and/or alarming, for example section 5.1.9, which states simply:

"The large volumes of bagasse generated create environmental problems due to spontaneous combustion which occurs after only a few months of storage. In particular, Zambia Sugar Plc experiences this scenario when heaps of bagasse on site accumulates over time. The bagasse smoulders indicating the presence of internal combustion. An averge of 1,543 tonnes of bagasse is generated per day from 8,589 tonnes of sugar cane crushed."

The bagasse is apparently burned in boilers for use in steam turbine power generation, and is presumably the source of the added electrical generation referred to in the article once a 6th boiler is brought online (EIS section 4.4). However although all five existing boilers are described as being from the same manufacturer with similar characteristics, they have wildly divergent reported emission statistics (e.g. while Boiler 3 reputedly emits 26.50 ppm of Sulphur Dioxide, Boilers 4&5 combined emit 9.17 ppm, and Boilers 1&2 apparently emit none whatsoever). There is no indication given which of the existing boilers will most resemble the new one.

This is getting overly long, so I will close by saying I recommend close scrutiny of the actual impact of this project by local organizations with an eye towards evaluation of further expansion by Zambia Sugar and similar large scale agricultural development in other sectors of the farming economy.

Thanks!

 
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