Since the mid-1990s, when the first feasibility studies were conducted, the Namibian and Angolan governments have been attempting to dam the Kunene River and build another hydroelectric power station (in addition to the one at Ruacana), to satisfy the countries’ ever-increasing demand for power. The favoured site for the dam, initially, was at Epupa, but the Himba, whose ancestral lands would have been flooded and whose way of life was threatened, protested vociferously, supported by national and international human rights and environmental agencies. Bowing to sustained pressure, the Namibian government eventually shelved the plan in 2007, but is now pushing for construction of a dam 40km downstream in the Baynes Mountains. Once again this would flood Himba lands, including gravesites; entail the forced resettlement of some communities; deprive communities of an important riverine resource, for people and cattle; and lead to the inevitable influx of construction workers and a likely increase in crime, all of which would threaten the Himba way of life. As an alternative, most Himba are in favour of developing solar power in the region. With the battle lines drawn, the Himba’s struggle for development on their terms looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

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