The rains have arrived

21 11 2008

The rains have arrived. They are about on time too. There was a storm this afternoon, more noise and wind than rain but still I can appreciate the coolness after a blistering hot start to the month. The crickets are out in force and amazingly so are the frogs. The power is off too so I am typing this by laptop battery, illuminated by LED lanterns consisting of a bank of 24 LEDs powered by a lead acid gel cell. I have 3 of them but I can see that I will have to invest in a couple more. They are not that cheap at $35 each but well worth it; there is nothing more depressing than sitting in the dark wondering when to go to bed. At least when I’m not typing a blog (it will have to wait for some power to be uploaded) I can read. I rely on Terry and Suzanne to keep me in reading material which they source in Botswana and South Africa.  I gave up my subscription to Newsweek some time back as they were all getting stolen so I do appreciate the ones they bring back together with copies of The Economist and the South African Mail & Guardian. My Scientific American, Cross Country (paragliding magazine) and National Geographic still seem to get through.

The serious publications have all been heavy on environmental/energy issues recently. It seems that South Africa’s programme of nuclear development has hit cost overruns and has fallen foul of the political upheavals there. The USA and the UK are also going the nuclear route with the UK also committed to other resources such as wind (they have a lot of it). Here in Zimbabwe we are a bit further behind. Our main source of hydro power is Kariba Dam, built in the 1960s. Shared with Zambia, there is not much further potential for development and for many years now the lake has not been at capacity. Our other main source of power is Wankie thermal station which is built on a colliery of the same name with vast potential but due to disastrous financial “policies” of the current government little maintenance has been done and now it totters along from one breakdown to the next. The rest of our power needs are imported from South Africa and Mozambique but these are restricted by our ability to pay and their own requirements. So we endure numerous load shedding cuts and like now, faults.

Any economic recovery in Zimbabwe will have to include plans for rehabilitating the power supply. Nuclear of course is way too expensive so it’s likely to be more of the same i.e. thermal and hydro. The Zambezi still has plenty of hydro potential and I believe that a number of sites have been surveyed both up and downstream of Kariba. In the 1980’s there was a major campaign on to thwart the go-ahead on construction of a dam in the Mupata Gorge downstream of the Mana Pools National Park. Mana would have been flooded and the conservationists argued that there were better sites to be exploited upstream of Kariba. It was put on hold though I suspect the reasons were financial. Solar power had huge potential in Matabeleland (not for nothing was Bulawayo nicknamed “skies” by the locals) but of course the technology is still expensive and not that efficient. So for the meantime we will continue to burn coal and contribute to global warming. Sometimes I’m glad I don’t have children; I don’t think I could ask them to inherit this mess.


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