SEVERAL southern African countries might face a crisis in the imminent future as major structural damages challenge the integrity of the Kariba Dam on the Zimbabwean-Zambian border, according to Zambian Energy and Water Development Minister Christopher Yaluma.
Yaluma announced on state radio that urgent repairs would have to be carried out within three years to avoid a flooding catastrophe that could see millions of people overrun by a massive deluge beyond Lake Kariba. However, both of the cash-strapped countries harvesting energy from the dam appears to lack the funds needed to finance the $220 million worth of repairs on the ageing dam.
“It’s quite serious but we are determined to resolve it,” Yaluma announced on the radio broadcast.
Built in 1955, the Kariba Dam is one of the world’s tallest hydro-electric dams, standing at 128 metres high. It marks the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, both of which run their own respective electric power plants to generate electricity from its turbines. However, in case of major flooding following a potential collapse in the wall of the dam, the consequences would affect several other Southern African countries, which happen to also straddle the Zambezi river – in addition to Zimbabwe and Zambia. Such a worst-case catastrophe would also affect scores of people in Malawi and Mozambique. About 40 per cent of the region’s electricity would also irreplaceably be cut off.
Measures to save the dam have not been taken yet, however, the World Bank, the European Union and the Development Bank of Southern Africa appear to be workshopping a solution to fund the required repairs before it is too late.
The news of the Kariba Dam’s fate came in the same week as floods hit Masvingo province a little further south in Zimbabwe, leaving thousands displaced and causing $200 million worth of damage at a time, when Zimbabwe is already struggling with its economy. The floods were caused following a leakage in an ill-conceived dam project in the region.
The current tragedy at the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam reveals that homelessness and malnutrition are not the only consequences that would follow such a deluge: the current backlog of stranded villagers suffering to reach hospitals to receive anti-retro-viral medication to combat HIV/AIDS prove that authorities aren’t prepared to accommodate and manage any such disasters.
Weather-related floods across southern Africa have managed to reach as far south as Limpopo Province in South Africa last week.
By Sertan Sanderson, 2014