Don’t fiddle over Kariba Dam wall crisis

via NewsDay Editorial: Don’t fiddle over Kariba Dam wall crisis March 21, 2014

It’s unimaginable the scale of destruction the collapse of the Kariba Dam wall will leave in its wake. The cataclysm will sweep away the lives of 3,5 million people in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

Lake Kariba is Africa’s biggest inland water reservoir stretching over 280km; all that water is held in place by a dam wall which has for some time now been reported to have developed “serious structural weaknesses” requiring to be rectified within the next three years or else . . .

Yet, Zimbabwe is attempting to downplay the gravity of the situation while its counterpart Zambia acknowledges the gravity of the situation.

Zambia’s push to raise the required funds to repair the damaged areas to save water and the millions of people living downstream in the Zambezi River Basin should be commended.
Zambian Finance Ministry permanent secretary Felix Nkulukusa, who is also chairperson of an intergovernmental committee responsible for mobilising funds to repair the dam wall, said Zambia and Zimbabwe needed $250 million to avert this major humanitarian and economic catastrophe.

This is no small matter. It requires the two countries to pool their resources together and remedy the situation.

So, Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere should avoid playing politics in the middle of such a potentially calamitous situation by moderating the problems at the Kariba Dam wall.

In fact the snail’s pace Zimbabwe has moved in the face of the Tokwe-Mukorsi and Tsholotsho floods humanitarian crises is cause for concern. Its non-committal stance has rendered over 60 000 people homeless in the face of the torrential rains. This is a sad development, and we urge Kasukuwere to lead the way.

The safety of the 55-year-old dam has been called into question a few times. It is acknowledged that most recently at a meeting of dam operators in July 2012, engineers from the Zambezi River Authority disclosed that the plunge pool below Kariba Dam has deepened beyond expectation — it has now eroded to a depth of more than 81 metres into the rock substrate.

This is the area where the water is released after going through the dam’s spillways. The main concern is, however, not the depth of the plunge pool, but that it has been eroding towards the dam wall, with the likely possibility of undercutting the foundation of the 128-metre-high wall.

This, therefore, is of great concern, as an unstable foundation can lead to dam failure, a potentially catastrophic event for the hundreds of thousands of people living downstream of Kariba Dam.

The deterioration of the Kariba Dam wall could be a classic example of what happens when infrastructure is not being maintained. It is also important to note that the effects of the Kariba Dam wall failure will likely cause a tsunami beyond the African waters, and this is a potentially global threat which should not be taken lightly. It also calls for a global appeal for help if Zimbabwe and Zambia lack the resources to repair the damage.


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    apolitical 8 years ago

    Qver many years engineers have assessed Kariba Dam.
    It is not just the erosion at the base, the side rock is friable, the siltation is beyond safe.
    But if we say too much we wont get a grant and the kickbacks.
    Tahere is little doubt in the long term it will collapse due to the friable rock.
    It is the only one currentlty left standing designed by the Italian consultant all others have failed.
    What is needed is truth – if they try to fill in the siltation there may be movement, the plan to put more turbines in means blasting , why previous engineers including my friend the late Prof Harlen, who was the CEO at one stage and sat on the world utilities board and the then team calculated further turbines would be dangerous.
    But these new engineers know better and go for the bucks, when they fail they will say sorry not my fault, accident.

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    @Apolitical it is good that people are now acknowledging what is happening here. Truth of the matter is that if that Dam wall collapses those that will bare the highest responsibility will be the Government and not the Engineers. This problem was not highlighted yesterday. It has been around for quite a few years now. When people like myself comment it looks like we keep on going back to the Government. Yes, because this is their watch. Engineers come and go. Ministries and the Government are there for the five year term. My hope is always that they read hear and look at our comments and then lift their armpits and sniff to see if they are not smelling.

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      Fallenz 8 years ago

      Beside the devastating loss of life and property downstream, the cost of which is so enormous as to be beyond calculation, add the loss of power generation and livelihoods on the lake. Kiss the kapenta and tourism (what little remains) goodbye. (Not to mention the sudden growth in the concentration of crocs.). All of that is unimaginable, but it’s not without precedent.

      Unfortunately, should the repair funds appear, how much would go to line politicians pockets before the “cost over-runs” began to be reported and demands for additional funding begins.

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    John Thomas 8 years ago

    Looks like this dam technology is too advanced for our liberation heroes

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      I agree,friend the only thing these liberation heroes know is how to steal an election.

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    This is what Mangoma said in 2012

    Energy and Power Development in Zimbabwe, Elton Mangoma, said in a parliamentary committee meeting, that the wall on the Zimbabwe side needs to be anchored to stop it collapsing.
    “I repeat that the wall on the Zimbabwean side is weak and requires anchoring and this is being attended to.It is something that is high on the agenda because without the dam wall you really have nothing,”

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      mandy 8 years ago

      The people of Zimbabwe deserve professional approaches to get them out of the current mess. Let alone to say that the implications of this impending disaster are catastrophic. Imagine without the dam wall there is no Kariba South extension to talk about. How much do we know about the impact of a collapsed dam wall on the much talked about Matebeleland Zambezi water project? What happens to the Tonga community that has been living off the Lake. We need to know the impact on the tourism that is based on the lake. How does the collapse impact on the 35 000 residents of Kariba town? Will they not turn to wild life poaching in order to survive should it occur?
      Yet all we hear is that a responsible minister once raised the issue in parliament and in response to questions. One would have expected this issue to have been on minister Mangoma’s priorities and reflected on his ministry’s programs. We really have a crisis of leadership in Zimbabwe.

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    Dzatsva 8 years ago

    250 million is not that much,even the zpf thieves can raise that kind of money overnight,chombo,mpofu,kasukuwere ,gono ,chiwenga,chihuri,grace to name a few can even pay all including for the zambian.But unfortunately the river doesnt flow in their direction nor in any of their properties.She goes to Malasiya for holiday and vanohurira kuminda kwavo.SHAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    This is nonsense. The pool is not 81m deep. There is absolutely no risk of the wall failing. This little bit of hysteria is political and nothing more.

    Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners designed the wall and supervised construction. They are still in business and can be asked to give an engineers report on the matter. When they do that will lay this to bed.

    People are very gullible indeed.

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      Clive Sutherland 8 years ago

      I understand that all six flood gates were opened only once and this was soon after the lake first filled up and the reason given was to purposely allow some controlled undercutting and to deepen the stilling pool to a depth of 79 metres, so has the stilling pool indeed been eroded out a further 2 metres?

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      Parangeta 8 years ago

      Wrong, Mitchell Company re-built and re-designed the
      Kariba Wall, after Italy’s Impresit, FU#*ED it all up,
      and here are more details –

      “An Italian consortium, Impresit, was appointed in 1956.
      Andre Coyne, a French engineer, inventor and specialist
      in “arch dams”, designed Kariba Dam”.

      Now these Zanoids will take a big Begging Bowl, and once
      more go begging to fix their FU#*UP! The money will then
      ‘disappear into ‘over-runs’ in Singapore!

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    Only Fools 8 years ago

    And when it does break . . .’Its not my fault’ I’m not the one!

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    @Jack It does not matter who designed the wall. It is a man made structure and at some point it needs the necessary repairs. Your statement would want to imply that all the Engineering experts don’t know what they are talking about. Dam walls and bridge structures world wide are at certain points being secured and serviced, what is so special about who designed the wall?

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      slick 8 years ago

      @ Doctor…#jack is right the lebaration heros will go as far as saying ”Sir Alexander Gibb and
      Partners who designed the wall
      and supervised construction.
      They are nolonger in business so we cant solve the problem lets just wait for it to colapse” mainly because the river is not flowing in their direction and “construction of new Kariba dam” will be their campaign strategy in 2018…imbwa dzevanhu

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    I am not the one! 8 years ago

    I dunno know.. I am not the one!! It is the racist Smith regime who has made this happen to try and halt the incredible advances made since our hard won liberation. We shall rebuild and tomorrow we have some trees coming to start to block the river.

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      Parangeta 8 years ago

      Ha! ha! you should do stand-up comedy!

      Don’t you know, “It was the sanctions,
      Ian Smith, maybe Margaret Thatcher, or
      God forbid Tony Blair.

      You seriously need to get a life!

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    When people contribute to these important issues they should tell the public the truth.@Jack-its the French engineer who designed the wall,his name is Andre Coyne and he was a specialist in what is called [Arch Dams].The dam was built by the Italians with his supervision.
    Therefore,it would make sound technical reasoning to raise funds and then hire the Italians to repair the wall.This wall failure has serious political repercussions if its allowed to collapse because this will affect neighbouring countries.Do not be fooled that they will remain silent when their infrastructures are destroyed and many of their lives are lost.This could be the turning point in this easy cheap brother politics.The minister should take concrete steps before its too late.

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    @slick I know that a lot of people might want to see something that destroys this party. All I want is for democracy to kick in. What I am saying here is if that dam wall bursts and all those millions of people and wildlife get affected would we rub our hands in glee and say I TOLD YOU SO. No, if we are human we would go into national morning. You have people in the path of this river that don’t know what threat they are living under. You have animals that live at the mercy of nature. You have hospitals with sick people that might experience black outs. This is no longer about what the Ministry has failed to do. It is now about what the world would do if they new a tsunami was facing any country in the world. This is one of the times when you pray this is arrested before it turns into something else.

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    Zvichapera 8 years ago


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    Felix 8 years ago

    Mugabe could sell some of his diamonds and rebuild the wall instead of selfishly.keeping itall for himself and Grace l

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    Petal 8 years ago

    If funds are to be sourced from outside they should be monitored all the way do not leave it to the locals they will just take it
    It is Africas problem let them sort it out they are quick to yell when they need to be corrected but when it comes to sourcing money they are quick to put a hand out
    The chinese will definitely do a shoddy job they are known for that throughout the continent but have been welcomed if only Rupert Fothergill who organised Operation Noah was still around