EXCLUSIVE: Fear stalks Mozambique over impending Kariba ‘tsunami’
from ARIMANDO DIMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – WITH the rainy season on the horizon, the panic levels among some millions of Mozambicans are rising by the day in fear of a growing possibility of the collapse of the ageing Karida Dam wall.
The collapse of the decades-old wall, which is feared to be imminent, will unleash billions of tonnes of water to defenseless communities.
The gigantic structure, which is a key feature in the world’s largest man-made lake and water reservoir, has been operational for 50 years.
Time has taken its toll on the landmark with its concrete walls swelling due to slow chemical reactions, which is impeding the passage of water through the floodgates.
There have been warnings the failure to rehabilitate the wall would pose a risk to lives of more than 3,5 million people downstream in the two countries as well as Malawi and Mozambique, which makes projections it would lead to loss of a key source of electricity for Zambia and neighbouring Zimbabwe, trivial.
Wildlife and flora are also at immense danger.
Mozambique, among the most flood-prone countries in the continent, is said to be at greatest risk, hence the anxiety among villagers living along the Zambezi River.
“Whenever we hear the news about this looming disaster, we lose sleep,” a distressed Maria Manjate, a villager in Tete, said.
“Our fears are justifiable because the water will come to wipe us all hear. As such, we urgently appeal to the Mozambican government to liaise with its counterparts for Zimbabwe and Zambia resolve or avert this looming catastrophic,” Manjate, a mother of three, added.
A local farmer, Shalate Macchave, is equally terrified.
“The thought of losing life to water is scary. I beg the countries involved to act fast,” she told CAJ News Africa in Tete, Mozambique.
The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) manages the facility.
The agency’s spokesperson, Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa, said Zambia and Zimbabwe had raised some US$294,2 million (about R3,824 billion) with international investors, out of the $300 million required to fix
deformities and cracks in walls that were discovered in a series of assessments the structure.
“We really understand the urgency in which the work should start. Such work will commence soon, hopefully in January 2016,” Munodawafa said in a telephonic interview from Zambia.
Fears are that such might be too late.
“The rainy season, when floods are a recurrent feature is upon us and carrying out rehabilitation works during the rainy season, as suggested by the officials, is not feasible,” said Beria based socioeconomic commentator, Sofia Pelembe.
Pelembe painted a gory picture of how a disaster would unfold.
“When the Kariba Dam walls collapses, it would unleash a tsunami’ of water through the Zambezi Valley, immediately reaching the Mozambique border in just less than a few hours where it would engulf Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa
Dam wall,” she said.
Kariba Dam lies some 1300 kilometers upstream from the Indian Ocean, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially open the Kariba Dam with the switching on of the first electricity generators.
The dam was constructed between 1956 and 1960, creating the largest manmade lake in the world -Lake Kariba.
At the time of its construction, the Kariba Dam was known as “one of the engineering wonders of the world,” a double-curvature, concrete-arch, dam wall standing at a height of 128 metres above the river bed and spanning
617 meters across the Kariba gorge in the mighty Zambezi.
The building of the dam wall created an “inland sea,” stretching 280 kilometers in length, covering an area of over 5 500 square kilometers and holding back more than 180 billion tonnes of water.
Nonetheless, disaster has been brewing in recent years.
In 2008, it was reported that heavy rain might lead to a release of water from the dam, which would force 50 000 people downstream to evacuate.
Rising water levels led to the opening of the floodgates in 2010, requiring the evacuation of more than 130 000 people who lived in the floodplain, and causing concerns that flooding might spread to nearby
Last year, at a conference ZRA organised, engineers warned the foundations of the dam had weakened and there was a possibility of dam failure unless repairs were made.
It was pointed out the dam was in a dangerous state having been built on a seemingly solid bed of basalt.
Over the years, the torrents from the spillway have eroded that bedrock, carving a vast crater that has undercut the dam’s foundations.
More than 50 years later, one of the engineering wonders of the world is rapidly becoming the source of one of the humanitarian disasters of our time.
– CAJ News
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