The world’s largest man-made dam shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia is set for rehabilitation to secure long-term reliability of power generation after the two governments on Tuesday signed a deal with a French contractor to carry out the work.
The Kariba Dam rehabilitation project, set to start in May this year, involves re-shaping of the Kariba Dam plunge pool to address safety deficiencies as well as refurbishment of six flood gates to enhance operational control of reservoir releases.
The 300 million U.S. dollars project is jointly funded by the World Bank, European Union, the African Development Bank, Swedish government and the Zambezi River Authority, a bi-national organization managing the dam on behalf of the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The rehabilitation project, to be done by Razel-Bec, will be done in phases with rehabilitation of flood gates expected to be completed in about eight years while the plunge pool is earmarked for completion in 2020.
Several senior government officials from the two governments witnessed the signing ceremony at Kariba Dam wall where they thanked the cooperating partners for the support which they said will ensure continued power generation by the two countries.
“My expectation is that the project will progress smoothly,” said Zimbabwean Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
He said the project would avert a potential risk of dam wall failure as well as guarantee the safety of people living downstream the Zambezi River.
ZRA chief executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa said dam wall failure had potential to affect 3 million people in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
“No wonder why it’s a regional issue. Failure of this dam wall has catastrophic consequences,” he said.
Zambian Finance Minister Felix Mutati said the signing ceremony marked the start of the implementation stage of the project after four years of technical preparation.
“The rehabilitation project is the first major landmark since the dam was commissioned in 1960. It’s a landmark that has strengthened the bond of Zimbabwe and Zambia,” he said.
Constructed across the Zambezi River which divides Zimbabwe and Zambia between 1956 and 1959 and commissioned in 1960, Kariba Dam is the largest man-made reservoir in the world.
The dam is a double curvature concrete arch dam, 128m high and with a crest length of 617m.
It has capacity to hold 181 billion cubic meters of water, of which 61 billion cubic meters is usable storage for power generation.
The two countries equally share the water resource for power generation.
The dam supplies water to two underground hydropower stations with a total capacity of 1,830MW generating more than 10,035 GWh of electricity annually.
The North Bank Power Station is operated by ZESCO in Zambia and has an installed capacity of 1,080 MW while the South Bank Power Station is operated by Zimbabwe Power Company and currently has an installed capacity of 750 MW, with projects underway to increase this to 1,050 MW.
Chinese firm Sino Hydro is undertaking a 300MW expansion project at a cost of 300 million dollars on the Zimbabwean power plant after earlier embarking on a 360MW expansion project on the Zambian side.
Zimbabwe expects the first unit of the expansion project to come on stream by end of year. Enditem