Kariba — Zimbabwe and Zambia have consummated a $295 million Kariba Dam wall rehabilitation project funded by the European Union to avert a major disaster, as the dam wall's base is under threat of under-cutting.
Repair and rehabilitation works are aimed at pre-empting the corrosive effects of water falling onto the foot of the dam wall, which was beginning to undercut the natural rock on its base, creating an 80-metre gaping hole.
The project will include reshaping of the plunge pool and is expected to be completed in 2020, while the full rehabilitation of the dam to extend its lifespan and improve its safety will be ongoing for eight years.
Addressing delegates at the signing ceremony, Zambian Finance Minister Mr Felix Mutati said the project was the first major works after the dam's commissioning in 1960.
"This double curvature electric dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi River Basin has over the past years faced weakening of its structural integrity that is threatening livelihoods and ecosystems downstream," said Mr Mutati.
He urged the contractor, Razel-BEC from France, to expedite work on the project after completion of formalities by the two governments.
Mr Mutati hailed the European Union, which chipped in with a $100 million grant, the African Development Bank which provided $75 million in part loan and grant, the Swedish government's $20 million and the World Bank which extended a $75 million loan.
The Zambezi River Authority is expected to monitor the project and it contributed $19,2 million.
Finance Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa said energy played a critical role in the development of the economy and every effort should be made to maintain infrastructure.
Giving a technical outline of the project, Zambezi River Authority chief executive Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa said the project will allow the authority to spill (water) using all six gates instead of the current maximum of three.
EU head of delegation to Zambia and the COMESA region Mr Alessandro Mariani said the project epitomised solidarity and dynamic partnership between the two countries and cooperating partners.