19 March 2014

Southern Africa: HCB Not Informed of Report On Possible Kariba Dam Collapse

Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN
Victoria Nditondino holds up a jug of the dirty, brown water that her grandchildren have drawn from a distant well in southern Angola’s Cunene Province.

Maputo — A report in the government-owned newspaper “Zambia Daily Mail” on Tuesday warned that the Kariba Dam, on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is on the verge of collapsing, but the Mozambican authorities know nothing about this.

The Zambian paper cited Felix Nkulukusa, the chairperson of an intergovernmental committee mobilising funds to repair the dam, that "we are told by engineers that if nothing is done in the next three years, the dam may be swept away".

The governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe, who own the dam through the Zambezi River Authority, are seeking 250 million US dollars for the rehabilitation programme. Nkulukusa claimed that the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Union have agreed in principle to support the project.

He stressed “this is of great concern, as an unstable foundation can wash away the dam, a potentially catastrophic event for 3.5 million people along the Zambezi River mainly in Mozambique and Malawi”.

Certainly a collapse of the Kariba dam wall would have very serious knock-on effects in Mozambique, sending a wall of water down the Zambezi and into the reservoir behind the Cahora Bassa dam, in the Mozambican province of Tete.

But Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the company which runs the dam, knows nothing of this supposedly imminent threat,

HCB chairperson Paolo Muxanga told AIM on Wednesday “We have no information on this. The first I'm hearing about it is from you”.

Muxanga said that HCB sits on a Joint Operations Committee which brings together all the operators along the Zambezi river. No information has been given through this committee of any possible collapse of the Kariba dam wall.

“We have known for years that Kariba has problems”, said Muxanga, “but it's news to us that these problems are so serious that they could lead to collapse”.

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