28 February 2013

Mozambique: Chihaquelane Centre to Close By Saturday

Maputo — The largest of the temporary accommodation centres set up by the Mozambican authorities for flood victims, at Chihaquelane, in the southern province of Gaza, is due to close by the weekend.

According to the administrator of Chokwe district, Alberto Libombo, cited in Thursday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the authorities hope to close the centre by Saturday.

At the height of the flood crisis in the Limpopo Valley, over 100,000 people were crammed into the Chihaquelane centre. But as the flood waters have receded, many of the displaced families in Chihaquelane have made their way back to their original homes in Chokwe town (which in late January was completely submerged by the Limpopo) or to villages elsewhere in Chokwe district.

Indeed, by Wednesday there were only about 4,000 people left in Chihaquelane. Some of these may return to Chokwe town, while others may opt to live in a resettlement neighbourhood that the authorities are demarcating in the Chihaquelane area.

Libombo said the district government is urbanizing this area, and intends to divide it into 5,000 plots of land. So far 1,000 plots have been demarcated, and 700 have been allocated to families regarded as “highly vulnerable”.

Initially those families will erect tents on their plots, while they prepare to build a definitive house.

This is the second attempt to persuade Chokwe residents to live on higher ground in Chihaquelane. There was a similar project after the massive floods of 2000, but it was shelved.

This time, said Libombo, people who accept plots in Chihaquelane, and receive land titles, will have to sign a deed that commits them to build on the land and not to sell their plot to others.

Libombo also pledged that no obstacles will be put in the way of those who want to recover their old homes in Chokwe town. No one will be forced to live in the Chihaquelane resettlement area.

The floods crisis appears to be over. According to the Thursday bulletin from the National Water Board (DNA), the Limpopo, and all the other major rivers in southern Mozambique, are back to normal, and none are anywhere near flood alert level.

In the centre of the country, the Zambezi remains above flood alert level at Caia and Marromeu, on its lower reaches, but the river is gradually subsiding.

One reason there has been no major dam on the Zambezi is careful management of the Cahora Bassa dam and its reservoir. There was enough space in the Cahora Bassa lake to accommodate the discharges from the Kariba dam further upstream. The level of the water in the lake has slowly risen, and it is now almost 70 per cent full.

Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa, the company that runs the dam, has kept the Cahora Bassa discharges over the past month or so to around 1,700 to 1,800 cubic metres a second.

In Sofala province, the Pungoe river remains above flood alert level at the Mafambisse sugar plantation, but it too is gradually subsiding.

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