Water risks of coal driven mega projects in Limpopo

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

The proposed Electro Metallurgical Special Economic Zone (EMSEZ) threat in Makhado is both a huge risk to water users and the environment in the Limpopo valley, and difficult to take seriously, since it has so many irrational aspects. For that reason many NGO researchers have been reluctant to become involved in a complicated issue in what could be a waste of time and money. A word of thanks is thus due to Richard Worthington at Friedrich Ebert Foundation who commissioned this piece in order to get this work done. I sincerely hope that this will be useful to fellow activists and to decision makers. This report focuses specifically on the water aspects of the EMSEZ, which I believe is a major threat, although together with other activists I wonder about the likelihood of the EMSEZ plans. The Mokolo Crocodile West Augmentation Project (MCWAP) is also discussed in this report, as an example of how fossil fuel development can still have dire water implications five decades after the start of coal mining and coal fired power generation, and a caution that even failed mega projects, as the EMSEZ is likely to be, have a cost to people and the environment. This report relies on a close reading of the Department of Water and Sanitation’s 2016 Limpopo Water Management Area North Reconciliation Strategy, as well as the October 2018 DWS Master Plan.


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Declaration of interest: the author grew up in the Limpopo province, in Lephalale, next to the Mokolo river and has an enduring love for the non-perennial sand rivers of the greater Limpopo area. Victor Munnik, Johannesburg, May 2020.

The production and dissemination of this research report are supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, South Africa office, based at 34 Bompas Road, Dunkeld West, Johannesburg; for more information see: www.fes-southafrica.org

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