SEVEN months after the cooperating partners responded to urgent calls to prevent the Kariba Dam from total collapse by pumping in money for rehabilitation, little preliminary works have been done.
But going by the economic importance the dam serves Zambia and its’ neighbouring countries, the rehabilitation works needs to be treated with the agency they deserve because the funds are available.
The European Union (EU), World Bank Group, African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Swedish government agreed to bankroll the critical renovation effort in December 2014.
However, what has been done as of July 18, 2015, is that the machinery is on site to determine the actual extent of the cracks in the wall.
This was confirmed on July 18, 2015 after Members of Parliament inspected the world’s largest man-made dam which was established between 1956 and 1959.
Zambia’s economy is affected as the result of power deficit resulting from the problems at the Kariba Dam which include low water levels and cracks in the wall which are believed to have hindered the facility to operate at full capacity.
Therefore, with funds available, it was expected that the rehabilitation works could have been speedy unlike the snail’s pace exhibited by the authorities tasked to correct the problem.
The dam which is managed by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) has the capacity of holding 181 billion cubic metres of water.
It has been a key driver of regional growth and development, benefiting more than three million people in the region.
The dam provides more than 50 per cent of Zambia and Zimbabwe’s electricity, benefiting an estimated four and a half million people.
Apart from being central to regional energy security, the dam is also used in flood-control and river-flow management in the Zambezi River basin.
The reservoirs have been contributing to the regional economy and surrounding areas, supporting fisheries, tourism operations, irrigation for agriculture and drinking water for local towns and villages.
Zambia’s Members of Parliament (MPs) from the committee on Economic Affairs, Energy and Labour including chairpersons for all the select committees travelled to Siavonga to find out the progress made in the rehabilitation of the Kariba Dam.
The MPs also wanted to know if the resources for the rehabilitation were secured and what was delaying the progress.
This follows an alert issued by the ZRA early last year that the Kariba dam could collapse –an eventuality that would carry unimaginable humanitarian and environmental consequences if the water was freed by a massive breach.
ZRA chief executive Munyaradzi Munodawafa informed the MPs that the money for the rehabilitation amounting to US$275 million had already been secured.
Mr Munodawafa explains that Zimbabwe and Zambia signed a financing agreement with the cooperating partners namely, AfDB, World Bank and EU in February this year.
In December 2014, the African Development Bank (AfDB) provided a US$75 million in concessional loans and another US$75 million loan was given by the World Bank Group to Zambia.
In addition, the government of Sweden provided a grant of US$25 million and the European Union approved 64 million euros (about US$100 million for the rehabilitation of the Kariba dam.
The project, with total financing of US$300 million, is being co-financed by the World Bank, the European Union, AfDB, Sweden and the Government of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The money is coming in some form of grants and loans. The loans are guaranteed by the Zambian government who will on-lend to ZRA for the rehabilitation works,” he said.
The overhaul project of the dam will fix deformities and cracks in walls that were discovered in a series of assessments.
The resources will help the Zambezi River Authority to reshape the dam’s plunge pool and refurbish its spillway, as well as improve dam operations,” he says.
The rehabilitation project is aimed at assisting in improving the safety and reliability of the dam.
This will be done by supporting the reshaping of the plunge pool, refurbishment of the spillway and enhancing operations to bring it in line with international dam safety standards.
“In terms of the work we have already started and this position we are in is very condusive for us to go full flat-out in terms of carrying out the required rehabilitation without any worry of the weather effects,” he notes.
Mr Munodawafa points out that the equipment is already at site and the engineers are drilling to find out the actual status of the dam and extents with regard to the cracks in the wall.
According to the World Bank- Kariba Dam rehabilitation fact sheet posted in February 2015, the programme will be implemented over the next 10 years, taking into account the need to continue operating the dam safely with minimal interruptions to power generation.
The report says, after more than 50 years of providing power for the southern African region, the Kariba dam now requires a series of rehabilitation work for its continued safe operation.
The work will include the reshaping of the plunge pool to limit scouring and erosion that could potentially undermine the dam foundations and the refurbishment of the spillway and associated infrastructure to improve the dam stability and operations.
The report indicated that the two rehabilitation components include in situ works on existing infrastructure to secure operations in accordance with international dam safety standards.
“The rehabilitation measures are not expected to have any significant adverse environmental or social impacts, with any potential impacts likely to be temporary in nature.
“ZRA is undertaking the necessary environmental and social impact assessment, preparing an integrated Environmental and Social Management Plan, along with the associated instruments to ensure the sustainability of project through appropriate preventive, mitigation and monitoring interventions,” the report states.
These will be finalised in 2015 before the commencement of the works, which are themselves expected to be completed by 2019 and 2023 for the plunge pool and spillway components respectively.
But experts in the energy sector believe that ZRA should ensure a speedy implementation of the rehabilitation works.
It is believed that the collapse of the dam will result in the loss of a key source of electricity for Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Now that resources have been secured, it is important for the authority to ensure that they fix the deformities and cracks in the wall that were discovered in a series of assessments.
The authorities should also take the opportunity of low water levels at Kariba dam to complete the works before the scheduled time.