20 June 2005

Zimbabwe: Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam Construction Resumes

Masvingo — CONSTRUCTION of the giant Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam in Masvingo has resumed after Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) availed $70 billion to Italian company, Salini Impregilo, to continue with the project.

The Italian company had suspended construction of the giant dam in 1999 citing payment problems.

At a breakfast meeting to discuss development issues in Masvingo over the weekend, RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono, said the central bank had singled out Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam as the engine for economic growth in the province.

"We have since December this year paid a total of $70 billion to Salini Impregilo, the main contractor at Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam, because the dam is the engine for economic development in the province.

"We expect you, the people of Masvingo, to be the supervisors of the project by making sure that work is going on according to plan. I have instructions from the presidium that the dam should be completed as of yesterday," said Dr Gono.

He said they would prioritise Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam in the allocation of funds as the dam had potential to spur the province to economic prosperity and make it the country's breadbasket.

He added that the thrust at the moment was to develop irrigation infrastructure to fully utilise the dam water for food production and end chronic food shortages in the country.

Masvingo province has 28 dams that were not being fully utilised because of the unavailability of irrigation infrastructure, which was the Government's pre-occupation under the mechanisation programme.

He said there must be a new impetus to fully utilise all the dams so that the province becomes self-reliant in food production.

The availing of funds for the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam, which will have a capacity of 1,3 billion cubic metres of water when full, was a welcome development.

Construction of the dam commenced in 1998 and was supposed to have ended in 2002 at a cost of only $390 million but the cost of the project has since ballooned.

Dr Gono, however, said Masvingo could only realise full economic potential if its people were united.

The RBZ governor said Government had already put in place mechanisms to ensure that about 21 000 tonnes of maize seed were imported by the end of August in preparation for the main farming season.

Masvingo governor Cde Willard Chiwewe said the greatest challenge facing the province was to ensure food security at household level.

Cde Chiwewe said food security in the province was going to be engendered by improving the province's irrigation potential.

He also said the giant dam project was part of the solution to ending perennial food woes in the country's most populous province.

Addressing the same gathering, the Minister of State for Policy Implementation, Cde Webster Shamu, said funds to assist farmers for the coming agricultural season should have been disbursed by the end of July.

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