Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Monday visited the Massingir dam, in the district of the same name, in the southern province of Gaza, to see the current state of repairs on the dam.
The dam is on the Elephants river, the major tributary of the Limpopo, and is critical for controlling the flow of water into the Limpopo. The work being undertaken includes setting up an auxiliary deep discharger to withstand flooding.
The Massingir dam has never been fully operational as leaks appeared within months of the end of construction in 1977. Major repairs in 2007 were botched and within a year the bottom outlet pipes burst.
The current repair work should improve irrigation for 16,000 farmers in the districts of Xai-Xai, and Chokwe, as well as in Massingir itself. Xai-Xai and Chokwe have a huge potential for food production, including vegetables, rice, and livestock.
The repaired dam will also reduce the possibility of a repeat of the destruction caused by flooding in Chokwe in early 2013.
The construction of the auxiliary discharger began in October 2013, and the work should be concluded by November this year.
The repair work is budgeted at 29 million US dollars, provided by the Mozambican government and by the African Development Bank (ADB). The contractor is China Hennan International Cooperation Group (CHICO).
During Guebuza's visit the general director of the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul), Belarmino Chivambo, explained that the construction of deep dischargers resulted from hydrological studies made after the catastrophic Limpopo floods of 2000, which showed the need to increase the dam's discharge capacity, since the main floodgate did not have sufficient capacity to release water during a major flood.
The main impact of the current work, Chivambo told the reporters accompanying Guebuza, is to make the dam safer by doubling its discharge capacity. In the event of major flooding in the future, it will ensure that water does not come over the top of the dam “which could create erosion and destroy the dam”.
With the safety of the dam guaranteed, he said, the Massingir reservoir would be able to store water during the dry season to the maximum level, allowing that water to be used for irrigation, Once the auxiliary deep discharger was instaled, the dam's irrigation capacity could rise to between 70,000 and 80,000 hectares,
Without the auxiliary discharger, as the rainy season approaches, the dam is obliged to release water from the reservoir - and this is a very imprecise exercise. “We might predict a lot of rainfall and it doesn't happen”, said Chivambo. “If we have to discharge because a lot of rain is predicted and it doesn't fall, then in the following economic year, we won't have enough water to irrigate the irrigation schemes at Chokwe or the Lower Limpopo”.